October 25, 2014

25 October 2014 Sweeping

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day sweep the pgarage roof some trouble over a ‘Servas’ visitor.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down trout for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Simon Featherstone – obituary

Simon Featherstone was a diplomat whose fascination with China proved useful when he was made High Commissioner to Malaysia

Simon Featherstone

Simon Featherstone

5:51PM BST 23 Oct 2014


Simon Featherstone, who has died aged 56, was one of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s leading China experts, and witnessed the rise of China from the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution to her ascendancy as a world power. Whereas, before the end of the Cold War, experience of Europe and the Soviet Union was seen as the route to the top in the FCO, Featherstone’s career marked a change of emphasis towards the Asia/Pacific region.

Simon Mark Featherstone was born on July 24 1958, the son of David Featherstone, a theologian, and his wife Nora, a French teacher, and educated at Whitgift School, Croydon, and Lincoln College, Oxford, where he read Law. He joined the FCO in 1980, and after studying Chinese at the School of Oriental and African Studies and in Hong Kong he was posted to Peking. It was still a city of bicycles, Mao suits and conformity.

The British were regarded as an imperial power, and the negotiations over the future of Hong Kong had just begun. Peking — now known as Beijing — was regarded as a “hardship” post, but Featherstone saw it as a challenge and never lost his fascination with China. Returning to London in 1987, he went on loan to the Cabinet Office and was there in 1989 when the massacre of student protesters in Tiananmen Square took place. He was able to use his experience of China to good effect in advising on sanctions against the regime.

He then moved to Brussels in 1990 to cover environmental issues in the UK Representation to the European Union. The importance of the environment was by then firmly on the international agenda, and Featherstone, with his legal background, became a master in Britain’s interest in coping with the thicket of EU regulation — he was acknowledged by friend and adversary alike as “the computer”.

But China again beckoned, and at the young age of 36 he was appointed consul general in Shanghai, where Britain was in stiff but successful competition with foreign rivals to equip the new Shanghai Airport. Featherstone moved to be political counsellor in Peking in 1996 as the negotiations for the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 were being completed and played a key role in understanding the Chinese government’s intentions.

He returned to London in 1998 to head the European Department in the FCO, which was charged with the difficult issue of the accession of the former communist countries of Central Europe and the Baltic States — in particular, whether their citizens should have the right of residence and employment in Britain. This was a matter for political decision, but Featherstone believed that the post-war division of Europe should be ended and that enlargement of the EU was in the interests of Britain’s security and prosperity.

Featherstone was appointed ambassador to Switzerland in 2004 and was much involved in negotiations to force Swiss banks to reveal details of secret bank accounts held by foreign nationals that were being used for tax evasion and money laundering. However, he was called again to work with China on appointment as the British director of the Shanghai Expo 2010. The British Pavilion, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, won the gold medal for pavilion design, but it required an immense and skilful campaign by Featherstone to fill it with the best of British culture and industry. He was appointed CMG for his work. After the Expo he was appointed High Commissioner to Malaysia.

For Featherstone, through his long association with China, this could have been a difficult assignment given Malaysia’s rivalry with China in the Asia/Pacific region. There were still vestiges of Britain as a colonial power that had at one time led to the “Buy British Last” campaign and the banning of Concorde overflights. But he found that the Malaysians welcomed his knowledge of China, and he quickly got on terms with Najib Razak, the prime minister, who described Britain moving from “benign neglect to constructive engagement” during Featherstone’s time. There was a rise in trade and investment, including the purchase of Battersea power station by a Malaysian consortium. The loss of the Malaysian airliner MH 370 over the sea in March 2014 led to close cooperation in the search operation.

He was a keen supporter of British education in Malaysia, notably with Nottingham University, which honoured him with a Doctorate of Laws.

Having grown up in south London, he was a Crystal Palace supporter but, ever the diplomat, he presented himself in Malaysia as a Manchester United fan, since this is the team supported by half the Malaysian population.

Featherstone was diagnosed with cancer in September 2013 but served on with great courage in Malaysia until May 2014. Once, when still a junior official in the FCO, he was amused to be quoted in The Guardian as “a senior Foreign Office mandarin”. But that never became his manner. He had an approachable style that won friends wherever he served. While he played his official role with dedication, he never took himself too seriously. As a committed Christian, he saw public service as part of his calling, treating everyone with respect, seeking to show integrity in all his dealings.

He married, in 1981, Gail Salisbury, whom he met when they were both at Oxford. She survives him with a son and two daughters.

Simon Featherstone, born July 24 1958, died August 26 2014


AH Halsey at Nuffield College, Oxford, in 1992. AH Halsey at Nuffield College, Oxford, in 1992. Photograph: Kenneth Saunders for the Guardian

The Oxford department that AH Halsey headed at Barnett House for 28 years trained graduate social work and probation students. His role as an activist ran through what it did: his view of sociology was always a broad one, encompassing social and community work at the applied end.

After his appointment as research adviser to Tony Crosland in 1965, he and Michael Young campaigned hard to get a government response to the Plowden report on primary education, and to launch pilot action-research projects in educational priority areas. The result was a national programme run directly by the Oxford department, with Margaret Thatcher, a later education secretary, keen to meet “Dr Halsey” to learn the results for her 1972 white paper. He took a similar role in launching the Home Office community development projects in the wake of Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech.

In the late 1960s Halsey encouraged the OECD in Paris to focus more on educational policy rather than manpower training, personally securing substantial funding from the Ford Foundation and Japanese government for a new OECD centre, which he chaired for many years. He travelled Britain speaking to groups as part of his commitment to adult and community education. Nearer to home he established a local community project on the Barton estate in Oxford, which ran for many years under Barnett House auspices. His ability to engage many different audiences without using any notes or aids made him a very formidable and effective operator – within academia, the civil service, international organisations and local groups.

John Gray’s essay is disappointing (The evil within, 21 October). To sustain his critique of secular liberalism, he needs to distinguish between the so-called liberalism of western governments and the so-called liberalism of those who are critical of their own governments, especially when those governments propose intervention or restricting “human rights”, invoking “security”. He does not do so. In fact, he homogenises divergent strands of western liberalism.

Gray affects to believe that because Tony Blair said Saddam Hussein was “uniquely” evil, all other western leaders thought the same, when even George W Bush spoke of an “axis of evil” comprising three states. His assertion that “our leaders”, today, believe Isis to be “uniquely evil” seems baseless. They believe that Isis is more evil than Bashar al-Assad and more of a direct threat to us – justifiably. They also tell us it will be a long struggle – correctly.

Gray’s other error is to invoke situations where intervention has not “worked” without mentioning situations where non-intervention has been equally unsuccessful. Thus, Libya “is now an anarchic hell-hole”, but tenfold worse Syria is not mentioned.

Western leaders as believers in “melioristic liberalism” is quite a stretch. In fact, it is their vocal opponents on the liberal left who believe that people can just go on getting better without what the market calls “corrections” now and again. They will not like Gray’s wise conclusion that “non-intervention is a morally compromised option” and that “military action may be justified”.
Hugh Hetherington
Sandwich, Kent

• The conclusion to John Gray’s lament exposes the contradiction within it: he accepts that there is no peace without “functioning states”; but functioning states are examples of the same “social institutions” he has dismissed a thousand words earlier. Social institutions are established to mitigate a variety of evils (rather than a single monolithic “evil”). Some grandiose creators of social institutions may believe that evil can be finally overcome through their efforts. But many members, supporters, or advocates of social institutions are not so deluded. They understand that institutions are fallible, will break down, and may themselves become agencies of harm. There will be improvements, but also deteriorations. So institutions have to be dismantled and rebuilt, generation after generation, and all final solutions are bogus. It’s possible to believe that social institutions are all we’ve got without believing they provide the royal road to the perfection of anything.
Jon Griffith
School of Social Sciences, University of East London

• “No advance in human knowledge can stop humans attacking and persecuting others.” Surely a claim too far, unless John Gray regards his own article as a futile contribution to a pointless debate? Meliorism is not idealism: in education, and social science in particular, meliorism assumes that while violence and destructiveness may be inherent and inescapable features of humanity, improvements in interpersonal and inter-group relations are possible.
This assumption does not conflict with the broad sweep of Gray’s analysis and he has no need to assert that it does.
Neil S Batchelor

• John Gray’s article is fascinating, and in many respects convincing. However, I strongly reject his view that the tendency to violence and evil is a fundamental aspect of our nature. While it would clearly be ridiculous to claim humans are never violent, the psychotherapist Carl Rogers argues that his experience shows that “the innermost core of man’s nature, the deepest layers of his personality, the base of his ‘animal nature’ is positive in nature – is basically socialised, forward-looking, rational and realistic”.

The generally accepted view, however, as Rogers points out, is that man’s basic nature is destructive and has to be kept under control. One reason this view is so widespread is that therapy reveals (and we often feel) destructiveness, violence and anger, and it is easy to mistake these feelings as fundamental. But Rogers found that these “untamed and unsocial feelings are neither the deepest nor the strongest, and that the inner core of man’s personality is the organism itself, which is essentially both self-preserving and social”.

Gray calls on evolutionary psychology to support his case, but I would ask: why would a species evolve that was fundamentally self-destructive? The instinctive desire for preservation of self and others seems to me to be a much more likely product of human evolution.
Ian Pirie
Upminster, Essex

• It’s perhaps apt that John Gray’s article should coincide with your editor-in-chief’s invitation to readers to engage more fully with the Guardian. I was struck by the quoted abstract from CP Scott’s famous 1921 essay that one of the most important aspects of a newspaper is it that should “play on the minds and consciences of men”. May the Guardian long continue to do so.
Brendan Kelleher
Douglas, Cork, Ireland

• Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth in their novel Wolfbane explain that human cultural development is controlled by the ratio C:P, where C is the number of calories and P is population. The practice of liberal ideals will only be possible where C:P is high; it will be degraded, and eventually disappear, where C:P declines.
Jeremy Cushing

• John Gray provides an insightful commentary on the global political and socio-cultural chaos we are bequeathing to our children. His essay reveals the inadequacies of the “western” political and military responses thus far, yet does not offer any way out of the morass. He ascribes many historical and current atrocities to a refusal to offer “moral standing” on the part of the perpetrators towards their victims.

I recall, when teaching politics at Oxford University in the late 1990s, that many of my students were enamoured of the Charter 88 movement of an earlier political generation. A written or codified constitution, for them, provided an answer to many of the issues and inequalities besetting the UK at the time. I confess that I did not wish to stifle their youthful idealism, yet felt duty bound to spend time running through the inadequacies of nation-states that did possess codified constitutions.

For example, the US constitution and bill of rights did not prevent the Removal of Indians Act, the internment of Japanese Americans during the second world war or the abuses of Senator Joe McCarthy. Clearly, to be denied “personhood” in the eyes of others or institutions entails a threatening vulnerability, written constitution or not. Liberation theology, a useful credo that emanated from Latin America, offered another insight to which Gray alludes, that institutional structures have their own dynamic that can bring about awful, or “sinful”, results.

His fundamental thesis, however, concerns the seeming intractability of human nature and the failings of the “melioristic” liberal construct to handle this. He recognises that this observation is nothing new, but perhaps fails to acknowledge the insights provided by the great Lithuanian, Levinas, whose whole philosophy, it is said, can be summed up with the words: “After you, sir.”

The great world religions, too, offer a critique of human nature and in many ways emphasise the importance of empathy, the abrogation of self, wisdom and a perspective beyond the now at both a collective and individual level. It is perhaps this shared element of human understanding, if not nature, that we must all now look to as a means of giving the next generation something with which they can work to counter the nihilistic theism that characterises the present epoch.
Dr Jonathan Snicker
St John’s College, Oxford

• Barack Obama, David Cameron, Saddam Hussein, Tony Blair, Bashar al-Assad, Abu Bakr Naji, Vladimir Putin, George W Bush, Jo Biden, the Taliban, Gaddafi, God, Mani, Jesus, St Paul, Satan, St Augustine, Pelagius, David Cesarani, Adolf Eichmann, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Avishai Margalit … are either against, or exponents of, or responsible for, or quoted on, or victims of, or have ideas about evil, in John Gray’s explanation of human conflict as a basic human trait. One woman, Hannah Arendt, had a say.

It’s no wonder women don’t write letters to the Guardian. Surely they deserve better representation in an essay on such an important matter, that affects all of us so deeply. Ok, they are not on the world’s historical cast list, but they did give birth to it, and nurtured it.
Judy Liebert

Barack Obama awards Ben Bradlee the presidential medal of freedom President Barack Obama awards Ben Bradlee the presidential medal of freedom, 2013. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Obituaries of Ben Bradlee (News, 23 October) have rightly reflected his bravery as an editor of a national newspaper, most obviously in handling the Watergate revelations. He was also a man with a dry wit who never took himself too seriously. Some time after Watergate I had a meeting with him at the Washington Post. I asked him how the worldwide fame of his ace reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had changed things. “Oh, there is no real change here. If a chicken gets run over in Georgetown, Woodward is there to tell us all about. If there is a failure in the traffic lights, Bernstein is on the job in the usual way. The only thing is … about 6 o’clock every the evening, the office Tannoy will sound with a message: “Mr Woodward or Mr Bernstein, your chauffeur is waiting for you.”
John Palmer

• In the second paragraph of his obituary (23 October), Christopher Reed refers to Ben Bradlee’s dread that, despite being the “most lauded and influential American journalist of his era”, the second paragraph of his obituary would mention the name of Janet Cooke, who brought the worst disgrace upon the Washington Post in its history (From the archive, 20 April 1981: Failures which spawned Pulitzer lie). Ironic or not?
Mike Pender

• When reading Alan Rusbridger’s appreciation of Ben Bradlee (Opinion, 23 October) as well as the other heartfelt tributes in the Guardian, I couldn’t help wondering whether, in years to come, both Rusbridger and the Guardian might receive the equivalent of the presidential medal of freedom (Roy Greenslade, 12 August 2013) from the British government for journalistic integrity, regarding Edward Snowden’s revelations and their ongoing support for him.
Pamela Gagliani
Todi, Perugia, Italy


The attitude of the Atos Healthcare spokesman in your report about Iain Duncan Smith deciding MS and Parkinson’s disease are curable (23 October) is astonishing. He states that their healthcare professionals are trained in the assessment of these chronic conditions.

Perhaps they should go back to training classes as they clearly have not understood these conditions at all. As a specialist health professional with many years of experience in Parkinson’s, I have never come across a single person with the condition who gave up working any sooner than was absolutely necessary.

The decision to terminate  paid employment is always very difficult to come to terms with and many people with Parkinson’s have carried on longer than might be advisable, with some detriment to their physical health. To suggest that Atos is in any way competent in assessing level of function and making a fair and honest appraisal is an affront to all the people to whom they have denied the benefits they should have been entitled to.

Atos could rightly claim responsibility for increasing some of the well-recognised and quality-of-life-affecting non-motor symptoms such as anxiety and depression. It’s high time this process was made fair and transparent.

Fiona Lindop

Belper, Derbyshire

After spending half an hour in my bathroom, I spent another half an hour getting together the medication that limits the pain and suppresses (most) of the violent spasms that make my legs cramp up and my hands turn into claws.

I get through the day one way or another before taking liquid morphine to dampen the pain in my neck and upper back (the MS is now attacking my spine) so I might get some sleep. I would like to thank Iain Duncan Smith for announcing the cure for MS. Can he also tell me when the pain and indignity of my condition will go away?

Brenda Lynton-Escreet

Carnforth, Lancashire


With the major political parties all welcoming the NHS report (News, 23 October), this is the opportunity for them to agree on bold new ideas on funding, that individually they would not dare to propose. It is clear that more money is needed; but expecting to find it by savings is optimistic.

Pensioners are major users of health services yet, once retired, contribute nothing. Paying a national insurance contribution – reduced so as to contribute to the NHS but not to pensions, would be fair.

I should make it clear that I am a pensioner!

Many of us who are now retired have been beneficiaries of free education, free health services, generous pensions, and so on. Perhaps it’s time for us to share more of the funding burden.

Bob Dunkley

Bushey, Hertfordshire


There has been much talk recently about the NHS saving money by concentrating upon prevention rather than cure. This cannot work and is brought about by lazy use of language. Preventative medicine is clearly a very good idea. Childhood vaccinations and cancer screening are wonderfully successful programmes that work very effectively. They do not, however, save lives. They prolong lives.

The long-term effect of the superb service that we get from the NHS is that we have an ageing population with record numbers in their 80s, 90s and even 100s. Thus it is disingenuous to pretend that preventative medicine saves money. In fact it creates ever increasing numbers of older people upon whom, quite rightly, large sums of money must be spent to meet their medical needs.

Rod Auton



Instead of giving encouragement vouchers to obese people, they – and all those who deliberately risk damaging their health by binge eating and drinking, drugs and alcohol – should be charged for all the resultant medical care and attention they receive.

That would reduce the drain on the NHS and discourage the irresponsible with idiotic lifestyles by hitting them hard in their pockets instead of adding to the burdens of others.

Robert Tuck

Wimborne Minster, Dorset

How soon before this increasingly callous government declares that the dead are actually fit for work, and tells them to stop lounging about all day in their coffins?

Pete Dorey



Botham’s interest in wildlife is to kill it

Ian Botham and his gang describe the RSPB as a “vampire squid hoovering up conservation funds”. (Report, 24 October). In fact, Botham and his gang appear to think that conservation of wildlife habitat should be for the purpose of providing victims for blood sports.

In 2008, Botham objected to a plan to release European beavers in Scotland. He told The Telegraph it would be “catastrophic for salmon fishing”. Note, “salmon fishing”, not “salmon”. In other words it’s his “sport” he values, not living, breathing, miraculous beings.

John Bryant


EU’s £1.7bn demand will spur on sceptics

Own goals do not come much more spectacular. Assuming that the EU wants to keep Britain a member, it could hardly have proceeded more wrong-headedly. By its £1.7bn cash demand to this country it really has poured petrol on the flames of an already heated discussion.

There are, of course, benefits to UK membership and the EU represents a noble aspiration to transnational cooperation. But without a bit of gumption at the top, it could soon be minus a member.

Andrew McLuskey


Why is Farage a regular columnist?

I have been a subscriber to The Independent since the beginning of this year, and look forward to reading it every day. Yet, like a previous correspondent, I am puzzled as to why Nigel Farage is, alone among party leaders, given a weekly column in your paper.

Today (Another Voice, 24 October) he uses most of his column to defend a calypso recorded by Mike Read. It may be acceptable for him to do so, but what I find repugnant is his suggestion that the “left”, in itself is a vague and ill-defined term, is more outraged by this than about sexual abuse in Rotherham. I can see no evidence for this.

I have no objection to right-wing columnists. I used to enjoy the pieces by Bruce Anderson and Dominic Lawson. But they were not party leaders; and Ukip’s policies and general stance seem so at variance with The Independent’s ideals that I find the acceptance of Farage as a regular columnist hard to understand.

John Dakin


A rush to judgement about 14 children

Gillian Smith’s letter (24 October) appears to have accidently appeared in The Independent rather than the Daily Mail. If she believes that the man with 14 children has no thought for the “cost [of his children] to his country”, then clearly she believes him to be unemployed or unable to work and claiming benefits other than child benefit. What if he isn’t claiming any other benefits?

Child benefit, let’s not forget, is a near-universal benefit, the amount of which would not incentivise anyone to have 14 children, and hardly qualifies the country as “looking after these children”.

It could well be that the man is earning more than £50,000 per annum and therefore receives no child benefit at all, and actually contributes more in taxes than he would ever receive from the state. As for over-population, perhaps his 14 children will all get high-earning jobs and their taxes will contribute to Gillian Smith’s pension, or perhaps this man is already contributing to her pension. The only certain thing is that we shouldn’t make rash judgements without knowing the facts.

Gary Clark

London EC2

There’s more to Wales than Dylan Thomas

As a resident of Swansea, it’s easy to agree with John Walsh’s comments on Dylan Thomas (Voices, 23 October). Laugharne is a fascinating township and well worth anyone’s visit but, for many reasons, must rely on the fame or infamy of the poet for much of its livelihood. So well and good.

But Wales has many more charismatic characters, some of whom don’t seem to get a look-in. WH Davies of “A dull life this, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare” fame had an involved and varied life worthy of study. And, it seems, for those who want excitement, TE Lawrence was born in the Principality.

But all we get is Dylan!

Sean T Jackson


Socialist historians making it easy for Mi5

The fact that MI5 spied on some of the most prominent post-1945 British intellectuals such as Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm tells us something unpleasant about how liberal our democracy actually was in the Cold War era. One hopes that in these austere times MI5 is not still at it. If they want to know what modern-day socialist historians are thinking they can check our Twitter feeds.

Dr Keith Flett


Sickness absence ruins working lives and brings great costs for the economy, so calls for employers to incentivise healthier lifestyles are welcome (News, 23 October).

Inactivity is wreaking havoc with the nation’s health and since many of us spend the bulk of our week at work – often sedentary – it makes sense for employers to take the lead.

This preventative approach – combined with fast access to health professionals such as physiotherapists for those who need it – is essential if we are to tackle the obesity crisis and reduce the ever-growing demand on the NHS. Some employers may baulk at the cost of such interventions but actually the Work Foundation found that for every £1 spent, £3 was returned through reduced absence and improved productivity.

They also yield broader savings for society by keeping people in work and reducing their need for benefits. The measures proposed yesterday by Simon Stevens – along Public Health England’s “Everybody Active, Every Day” framework – are therefore good news for individuals, employers and the economy as a whole. They must now be followed up with action.

Prof Karen Middleton

Chief Executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, London


Reading about the future plans of NHS England leaves me deeply concerned. While the focus of the report on meaningfully addressing the root causes of ill health – and the need for radical upgrades and financial support for prevention and evidence-based public health interventions – is to be admired, the defence of the infrastructures of the market and privatisation are deeply problematic.

What is worrying is the broad acceptance of the ethic of privatisation, with its emphasis on personalisation, local flexibility in rules and regulatory requirements and a focus on efficiencies.

The issues of infrastructure and organisation in the NHS are about funding. Breaking down boundaries between doctors and hospitals, and between physical and mental health, may in some contexts be useful but they are not the key issues.  This plays into the idea that “the NHS is unfundable and needs to change” – where there appears to be no alternative.

There are alternatives beyond the politics of tinkering embraced by the three main parties. The key issues facing the NHS are constant, chronic underfunding compared to other developed countries, wasteful internal markets, bankrupting PFI deals, the damaging physical and mental health impacts of austerity economics, and a failure to understand the way other core economic issues impact on the funding available for the NHS.

We spend at least £5bn annually on an internal market that does not improve patient care. We have just seen an unnecessary and damaging £3bn top-down reorganisation of the NHS. The answer to the health of our nation is manifestly not efficiency savings and the use of the private sector.

Dr Carl Walker

National Health Action Party, Brighton


It is clear that the results of smoking and obesity are the same: early death or expensive, avoidable stress on the NHS. While cigarette advertising is now illegal, it is incongruous that fast-food outlets can tart up façades of their premises with mouth-watering pictures of meals designed to stimulate the cephalic stage of digestion.

Vincent Knight



I wholly concur with Jane Merrick’s disdain for NHS England’s plan to pay GPs £55 for every patient they diagnose with dementia. (23 October 2014). What is the rationale? My only inkling has come from Jane’s own trepidation. We know that the continual increase in demand for GP services is due, in part, to the care required by the growing elderly segment of the population.

What if this is a cunning plot to curb this demand? Who, over say 60, will want to visit their GP, with whatever ailment, if there is a risk that they will be declared “demented”? We (I am, I admit, over 60) all know the care awaiting us in that eventuality!

Gordon Watt



If I were a GP I should be outraged at the suggestion that I needed a financial incentive to diagnose dementia. As a patient I might fear that an unwanted diagnosis might be about to be thrust upon me. As a taxpayer I’m (almost) speechless at yet more mis-spending of my money, possibly for a political purpose.

Susan Alexander

South Gloucestershire


It’s obvious what the Woolf test should be

Surely the test for the suitability of Fiona Woolf to chair the latest inquiry is very obvious. What would a judge do if a jury member, and foreman, disclosed the same level of acquaintance with the defendant in a trial? Unless the same policy is applied then the appointment is simply a case of an elite declining to abide by the same rules as it sets for everyone else.

I do not know the policy for juries but do know that if a member of a planning committee had the same degree of acquaintance with an applicant as in the parties in the Woolf case then, under rules laid down by the Government, they could face censure if they did not declare it and remove themselves from the discussion. The appearance of impartiality is important.

 It is also debatable, especially in an era where official files can go missing, whether office staff for the inquiry should be drawn from the department being investigated. They may worry that their colleagues might not welcome them back, and give them an honour, if they did not soften criticisms.

John Kennett


In a nation of nearly 60 million people it should not be that difficult to find at least one person who is perfectly well qualified to head an inquiry into child abuse – and who does not believe that being Lord Mayor of London is not part of the “Establishment”. Oh, and does not live in the same street as Leon Brittan, but does live on the planet!

This chain of events would be laughed at as too unbelievably nonsensical to be included in even the most satirical of anti-establishment shows. As for the “victim community mind” comment – it says it all about the establishment community mindset.

Tom Simpson



What’s so great about having 14 children?

I was shopping in a supermarket yesterday when I heard a man boasting that “he” had just had his 14th child. He obviously thought it was a magnificent achievement, with no thought for the cost to his country (us) of looking after all these children for him, nor the fact that he is contributing to the over-population of our country and our planet.

I am becoming more convinced that we should offer child benefit only for the first two children in a family (and nothing to those above a certain income) and that any more than two should be paid for entirely by the parents.

Gillian Smith

West Sussex


Looking after those on benefits

The report by major charities (23 October) into people with long-term debilitating conditions shows how much time and money is wasted trying to find people fit for work, who subsequently are found not to be fit after all, at a great financial and emotional cost. I have been working on benefits appeals for 17 years and have helped thousands overturn incorrect decisions and in most cases secure other benefit entitlements. The real shame is that many go without their correct entitlement because the Government uses the media to discourage benefits claiming, even by the most vulnerable.

Gary Martin

Benefits Adviser East London

Why Ched Evans must show true remorse

If Ched Evans believes he is innocent he has every right to appeal against his conviction, but whether his appeal is successful or not he must demonstrate true remorse if he is to resume his football career. A successful appeal would only show that he might not have acted illegally.

His responsibility is wider than merely not acting illegally. His actions, whether legal or not, have brought shame to a great football team and to the reputation of all professional football players. If he wants to be rehabilitated into the football world he must apologise wholeheartedly and give unreserved assurance that he will avoid the risk of any repetition.

In common with all who benefit from their position of being role models he shares the duty of being better than merely law abiding.

Clive Georgeson

South London


A calypso that brings back memories

Matthew Norman’s piece in today’s paper made me think of my wartime service in Trinidad. There was one calypso I would like to repeat for your enlightenment.

When the Yankees came to Trinidad They got the young girls going mad.

Young girls say they treat-em nice,

Make Trinidad like paradise.

Drinking rum and Coca-Cola Go down point Tumana

Both mother and daughter, Working for the Yankee dollaaaar!

John Scase


Sir, One aspect that is overlooked in the NHS England Five-Year Forward View (“Crisis in the NHS”, leading article, Oct 23) is the significant role that digital technology can — and must — play in providing sustainable and affordable care. Targeted use of a range of social media and other low-cost technologies (such as apps to monitor diet and exercise) can be used to change behaviours and encourage healthy lifestyles. Further investment in telecare technology can immediately support the provision of sustainable at-home care to our ageing population. In the long term, technology such as wearable patches that monitor vital statistics will enable practitioners to provide significantly better focused care. With smart use of digital technology, a better NHS is possible without blowing the budget.
Andy Vernon
PA Consulting Group, London, SW1

Sir, Another reorganisation of the NHS may help to cut costs, but it will do nothing to solve the underlying problem with the health service, which is that the country simply cannot afford it. There is not the remotest possibility that we can go on providing medical care for all patients and all conditions, free of charge; we will either have to cut demand or cut supply. Attempts to limit, let alone cut, demand have proved useless. Nor is there much likelihood that preventive measures will do much to lessen demand. So we must cut supply. Perhaps the NHS can only be free for emergency treatment, and all routine treatment paid for by insurance or through means testing.
Professor Tony Waldron
London N11

Sir, The assertion by the chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens’s of a rigid barrier between primary and secondary care is true of today’s NHS and is one of the major failings in the patient journey. In the days before market forces were introduced there was a healthy relationship between local GPs and their consultant colleagues. I could pick up the phone and be able to talk to a specialist with whom I had developed a personal relationship over several years. In the present system, both primary care and secondary care are separate entities, both fighting for their share of a diminishing pot of cash. The only way I can talk to a consultant colleague nowadays is on the golf course at the weekend, and even this route of access is now threatened by Mr Cameron’s plan for seven-day working.
Dr AW Cairns
Swan Surgery, Petersfield, Hants

Sir, The solution to NHS funding (“NHS: the £8 billion black hole,” Oct 23) is a hypothecated tax. Rename National Insurance as “NHS Tax”. NI revenue is at a level close to NHS spend. The rate is set annually and increases to reflect the country’s projected NHS expenditure for the following year, including overspend for the previous year.So that everyone feels ownership of our National Health Service, contributions start at the minimum wage threshold and are paid on every pound of income above that.
Adrian Cartwright
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs

Sir, Reading about the plans of NHS England leaves me deeply concerned. What is worrying is the acceptance of of privatisation, with its emphasis on personalisation, local flexibility in rules and regulation and a focus on efficiencies.The key issues facing the NHS are chronic underfunding, wasteful internal markets and bankrupting PFI deals. We pay at least £5 billion annually on an internal market that does not improve patient care. We have just seen an unnecessary £3 billion top-down reorganisation of the NHS. The answer to the health of our nation is manifestly not efficiency savings and use of the private sector.
Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action Party, Worthing, W Sussex

Sir, In the same way that charges were introduced for dental treatment and prescriptions, charges of £10/£20 must be introduced for every visit to a GP. This will eliminate most of the unnecessary “casual” visits which take up far too much of the GP’s time. Also, as the result of the absurd agreement which the last Labour government concluded with the BMA, GPs’ salaries are the highest in Europe and should be frozen for at least the next five years in order to make them realistic.
W Anthony Pike

Sir, “Treatment Centres” are nothing new. Twenty-odd years ago, tired of years of ineffectual treatment for my chronically ingrown toenails, I asked my GP about removing them. No problem. He phoned another local practitioner who specialised in such matters, made me an early appointment, and within a few weeks the job was done.
Laurence Payne

Sir, Simon Stevens would like consultants in GP surgeries to “consult” with patients. Just imagine the number of hours consultants would spend in a car or train or bus. This would amount to a huge waste of specialist skills, of time spent doing no useful skilled work instead of operating on patients at their tertiary base hospital. Thousands of hours would be lost to reducing waiting lists lost at the cost of increasing pollution. What we need is a more efficient referral system to the centre.
David E Ward
Consultant in cardiology and electrophysiology, London SW17

Sir, It is disappointing that your editorial repeats the falsehood that the British Medical Association opposed the formation of the NHS. It was in the 1930s that the BMA produced plans for general medical, hospital and maternity services for the nation. Many of these themes were revisited in the 1942 Beveridge Report that looked at providing a national health service. Doctors’ opposition to parts of what was proposed at the time was related to the detail of the government’s initial plans for how the system would operate, not to the principle of a publicly funded and comprehensive service that was free at the point of use for all patients.
Dr Mark Porter
Chairman, BMA Council,
London, WC1

Sir, Robert Vincent claims (letter, “Come back Kipling, Eliot and Auden, all is forgiven”, Oct 22) that the poems of Auden and Eliot can be committed to memory because they are ordered according to Waugh’s demand that they “rhyme, scan, make sense”. However, though the work of both poets not only at times lacks both rhyme and metrical pattern and also immediately accessible sense, it nevertheless invites memorisation by virtue of its movement and patterns of sound. Poetry is often initially known simply “by ear”: appealing resonances work and linger in the listener’s system.
David Day
Ackworth, W Yorks

Sir, Mr Vincent cites poets who “rhyme, scan and make sense”.

Auden began one poem:
Sir, no man’s enemy, forgiving all/

But will his negative inversion be prodigal

Eliot once opened up with:

The sapient sutlers of the Lord

Drift across the window-panes.

I hope Mr Vincent’s forgiveness extends that far.
Neil Curry
Ulverston, Cumbria

Sir, I agree with Ian Botham (“Ian Botham accuses RSPB of misleading its donors,” Oct 24). The RSPB’s site in Sussex was a haven for many birds and much wildlife and flora before they purchased it. I saw owls and foxes and loved the place. I am sad to discover that the woodland, which provided shade for the bluebells, has been destroyed and that the whole area has been fenced off with barbed wire. The notice tells me there are highland cattle on this land. The wonderful pine trees have been chopped down to leave a barren space — they say this is to encourage adders. Most of the natural habitat I loved is fenced off or overused.
Pam King

Aisby, Lincs

Sir, When the Spitfire was on the tail of a Messerschmitt 109 (letter, Oct 24), the Spitfire’s Merlin engine cut out momentarily upon commencement of a dive. The Messerschmitt engine continued to deliver full power as it had direct fuel injection. The negative “G” occasioned by a dive caused the float carburettor of the Spitfire to starve the engine for a crucial second; time for the Luftwaffe pilot to escape. This problem was solved by an engineer with Rolls-Royce, a Miss Shilling. She invented a simple device — a small metal disc with a precisely measured hole in its centre placed in the fuel line.
Rufus Fraser
East Grinstead, W Sussex

Sir, Am I the only elderly person irritated by the “gnarled-hands-clasped-on-stick” image that seems to feature in every article on the over-75s? For a change, I would happily allow my 93-year-old mitts to be photographed peeling potatoes, mixing a cake, or typing this letter.
Avril H Powell

Sir, I agree with Ian Botham (“Ian Botham accuses RSPB of misleading its donors,” Oct 24). The RSPB’s site in Sussex was a haven for many birds and much wildlife and flora before they purchased it. I saw owls and foxes and loved the place. I am sad to discover that the woodland, which provided shade for the bluebells, has been destroyed and that the whole area has been fenced off with barbed wire. The notice tells me there are highland cattle on this land. The wonderful pine trees have been chopped down to leave a barren space — they say this is to encourage adders. Most of the natural habitat I loved is fenced off or overused.
Pam King

Aisby, Lincs


A memorial to Bill Tutte has just been unveiled in Newmarket

The enigma machine, whose code was cracked by Alan Turing

The enigma machine, whose code was cracked by Alan Turing

6:56AM BST 24 Oct 2014


SIR – Amid the Hollywood hype surrounding the new film The Imitation Game, which highlights the achievements of the wartime code-breaker Alan Turing, it is worth pointing out that a memorial to Bill Tutte has just been unveiled in Newmarket, the town of his birth.

Tutte was a contemporary of Turing’s at Bletchley Park and was credited with achieving the greatest intellectual feat of the Second World War by determining the structure of the German Lorenz code machine without ever having seen one.

Lorenz was vastly more complex than Enigma – whose code Turing cracked – and strategically more important. The Soviet victory at Kursk in 1943 and the success of the D-Day landings in 1944 owed much to the intelligence gained by decoding intercepted German Lorenz messages. General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, acknowledged that Bill Tutte’s work shortened the war by two years.

For continuing Cold War security reasons, neither Bill Tutte nor Tommy Flowers, the Post Office telephone engineer who built Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer, received any public recognition or award for their efforts at the time – although David Cameron has recently written to Tutte’s remaining family in Newmarket to express belatedly the nation’s gratitude to him.

Bill Tutte went on to become an eminent university mathematics professor in Canada, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001. He died in 2002.

Richard Fletcher
Newmarket, Suffolk

Church at dusk

SIR – Alice Fowles refers to “traditional” times for Christian church services, at 10.30 or 11am, but during the 1st century the usual time was at dusk on Saturday, as Sunday was a working day in the Roman Empire.

The evening service is currently very practical and popular with young families in the Catholic Church.

Fr Colin Wilson
Frodsham, Cheshire

Many pensioners have houseguests and need spare rooms.

Liberal Democrat minister Lord Newby

Lord Newby told over-55s to downsize – though he lives in a London vicarage with at least one spare room

6:59AM BST 24 Oct 2014


SIR – Downsizing is expensive. It is not just a matter of removal expenses but of estate agent fees, energy-rating certificates, two lots of legal fees (buying and selling) and Stamp Duty. Then there are new curtains and carpets and other refurbishments to consider.

We have spent 30 years getting our house the way we like it. We have nice neighbours and Lord Newby isn’t the only one who has visitors. We will be staying here.

Les Sharp
Hersham, Surrey

SIR – My wife and I have a pension income and a modest retirement pot. If we downsized to, say, a £300,000 house (modest in today’s market) we would have to hand over £9,000 of our money as Stamp Duty to the Government.

This punitive tax makes older people think twice about moving down the ladder, and prevents the younger generations from moving up.

Keith Barker
Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire

SIR – Should our grandchildren and their parents all sleep on the sofa when they come to stay at Christmas and half term? Should our friends who visit from abroad be expected to stay in hotels?

I need the extra space for my art and craft work, to store my knitting wool and my sewing machine and to study Open University courses. My husband needs room for his computer, jigsaws and models. These things help us to have an active retirement, keeping us healthy and out of the clutches of the NHS for as long as possible.

Would Lord Newby prefer that we moved into a one-bedroom bungalow and plonked ourselves in front of a television?

Christine M Dann
St Asaph, Flintshire

SIR – Lord Newby’s comments are yet another example of the “do as I say, not as I do” approach of our politicians.

Paul Handley
Southwell, Nottinghamshire

Brunch is not a “quirky American invention”

Brunch doesn’t deserve a battering: 'Cooking Pancakes’ by Pieter Aertsen, circa 1560

Brunch doesn’t deserve a battering: ‘Cooking Pancakes’ by Pieter Aertsen, circa 1560 Photo:

6:59AM BST 24 Oct 2014


SIR – William Sitwell is perhaps not entirely fair in his critique of brunch. For starters, it is not “a quirky American invention”: brunch originated in England in the late 19th century as a buffet-style meal, and didn’t cross the pond until the Thirties.

Furthermore, the grating name is also English, coined in 1895 in Hunter’s Weekly magazine, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, to describe the meal taken by “Saturday-night carousers” on a Sunday.

As a non-drinker I adore brunch – it is an excellent time to see friends without having to watch them descend into inebriated idiocy.

Dorothy Gammell

Classic one-liners

SIR – Everything I ever needed to know about Classic FM was summed up for me a few Saturdays ago, when the presenter, Alan Titchmarsh, back-announced a recording of the slow movement of Beethoven’s sonata Pathétique and added: “But you probably know it better as More Than Love by Ken Dodd.”

Richard Edis
Amersham, Buckinghamshire

SIR – My favourite memory of Classic FM is hearing an Irish DJ announce: “And now, a stirring march by Soupy”.

R Peacock
Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire

Bus-less routes

SIR – You report on “country buses with no driver”. Here in rural Lincolnshire we are obviously ahead of the game, as we have bus routes with no buses.

Nick Cudmore

Finding a cure for cancer is important, but so is investing in early detection.

Lab technicians check over digital scans for signs of ovarian cancer

Lab technicians check over digital scans for signs of ovarian cancer. The cancer has one of the worst survival rates, because it is often symptomless until it is too late.  Photo: EARNIE GRAFTON/San Diego Union-Tribune/Zuma Pre

7:00AM BST 24 Oct 2014


SIR – The Medical Innovation Bill reaches a crucial committee stage in the House of Lords today. Spearheaded by Lord Saatchi, whose wife died of ovarian cancer – a disease he quite rightly describes as “relentless, remorseless, merciless” – the Bill will make it easier for dying patients to access untested drugs and treatments.

The statistics for ovarian cancer are woeful: the number of deaths has barely changed in 30 years. So, unquestionably, something needs to change dramatically.

Innovation in treatment is important, but with gynaecological cancers it is innovative research into risk prediction, prevention and earlier detection that is going to make the most difference and save more women’s lives.

The statistics for cervical cancer are astounding by comparison: there has been a 70 per cent decrease in deaths over the same 30-year period thanks to advances in screening.

Investing in finding a cure for cancer is important, but we shouldn’t ignore investing in earlier detection.

Athena Lamnisos
CEO, The Eve Appeal
London W14

Teaching a lesson

SIR – As an ex-teacher, I feel embarrassed that the reader from Kent (Letters, October 20) should feel so outraged by how hard his wife, the deputy headteacher of a secondary school, works for so little financial reward.

He must surely be aware that his wife also enjoys very long holidays and that, as a professionally qualified person, if you don’t like the hours you work or the pay you get, then you can find another profession. I did.

Mel Oakes
Haslington, Cheshire

Admiring the view

SIR – You report that “chainsaw gangs were on standby… to keep trains running” in the face of Hurricane Gonzalo. This made me smile.

In the early Seventies, railways decided to stop cutting banks. Now they are covered in mature trees and large bushes that scrape the sides of trains and blow down in gales. In pictures of railways up to the Seventies, there’s not a tree in sight.

“See Britain by train” no longer applies; all you see is a green tunnel.

Terry Putnam
Weymouth, Dorset

Manner of speaking
SIR – I would be grateful if someone could tell me why the name of the letter H, spelled aitch in my Collins English Dictionary, is frequently pronounced haitch.

Angela Harries

Rugby, Warwickshire

Should French laziness be rewarded with British sweat?

A United Kingdom flag flying next to a European Union flag

Britain must now make a £1.7 billion payment to the EU Photo: Alamy

2:10PM BST 24 Oct 2014


SIR – We have a large deficit and an even larger national debt. Britain borrows huge sums of money, some of which goes toward servicing our existing debt and some of which will now go towards making this £1.7 billion payment to the EU. The demand seems to be nothing more than a penalty for our putative success rather than the levying of taxation as part of a budget in its generally accepted sense.

The Government must face down the EU over this issue. If the Commission wishes, it can exclude us from membership.

Michael Morris
Little Wratting, Suffolk

SIR – On a visit to Dieppe in northern France three weeks ago, we discovered that businesses, shops and many restaurants were closed on Sunday. With the exception of a few boulangeries, everything in the town went into shutdown on Monday.

When we realised that, besides breakfast, no food was available either in the bar or restaurant of our four-star hotel after Saturday evening until dinner-time on Monday, we returned home early.

Why is Britain’s success and hard work being penalised to prop up France’s ailing economy?

June Rockett
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Our children are facing retirement at a much later age than we are, whereas the French reversed their attempts to balance their pension books and strengthen their economy.

I have been pro-EU for many years, enjoying the advantages of easier travel and reciprocal health arrangements, but now I am moving towards wanting Britain to withdraw from the European Union.

Keith Goddard
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

SIR – The EU demands that Britain pay an extra £1.7 billion to support European countries such as France which have ruined their own economies. Can this be paid by the Department for International Development?

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – There is a workable formula which accommodates British and EU interests.

UK defence spending can easily be deemed EU spending in the context of broader European security interests. There is wide respect in Europe accorded to our Armed Forces for their contribution to Europe’s stability.

Therefore, there is a strong case for waiving the proposed extra £1.7 billion fee and channelling that money into British defence spending.

John Barstow
Fittleworth, West Sussex

SIR – I have to ask: is Jean-Claude Juncker a secret Ukip plant?

Mark Hudson

London’s low maternal employment rates leave 100,000 mothers out of work in the capital.

Mothers with jobs tend to be healthier and happier than those who stay at home during their children’s early years, it has been found.

George Osbourne wants to see 450,000 more women in the workplace by 2016 Photo: Alamy

5:24PM BST 24 Oct 2014


SIR – We welcome news that the Chancellor wants to see 450,000 more women in the workplace by 2016 .

Our report, We can work it out, found that London’s low maternal employment rates leave 100,000 mothers out of work in the capital, and that this fuels London’s high child poverty rates. Increasing the supply of high-quality part-time jobs, affordable child care and employment support are key to tackling this.

With in-work poverty high, it is essential George Osborne ensures that women moving into work will also enable families to move out of poverty.

Alison Garnham
Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group
London N1

Snow vs Davies

SIR – I was interested to read of the altercation at ITN between Channel 4’s Jon Snow and Philip Davies MP. At times the programme does display Left-wing bias. This is acceptable if expressed in a reasonable way.

However, you also report that Krishnan Guru-Murthy joined the conversation. Mr Guru-Murthy frequently adopts a hostile manner when interviewing. Often this detracts from the value of the discussion.

While he is not the only reporter guilty of such bad manners, there are others who achieve successful results without bullying.

Bob Turner
Clevedon, Somerset

Mobile to phone

SIR – You don’t have to live in far-flung corners of the country to need a landline. We live only 30 miles from central London, but can only get a mobile signal by leaning precariously out of the bedroom window.

When we had a small house fire that disabled the phone line, we had to run down to the end of the garden in order to summon the fire brigade. Don’t get me started on broadband speeds.

Heather Paget-Brown
Plaxtol, Kent

Auld acquaintance

SIR – I recently received an email from an old flame in New Zealand: “Was just watching an antiques programme, and thought of you.”

Gavin Littaur
London NW4

Irish Times:

Sir, – Taoiseach Kenny Enda and the leader of the Opposition Micheál Martin are in agreement that the Dáil did not accept excuses of leading churchmen over the handling of cases of abuse. We have moved on and as Christians have hopefully forgiven those who were guilty. Certainly we have allowed some important hierarchal figures who were involved to enter peaceful retirement without question. Sinn Féin is the fastest-growing political party in the State, much to the annoyance of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, but surely it is time to stop this chorus of vilification of Gerry Adams by politicians – and the media, and extend to him the same courtesy and grace as was afforded to the churchmen, guilty or not guilty.

Surely it is the homeless, the old, the young marrieds who are struggling to rear families, and many other groups, whose problems should be addressed by TDs? The political point-scoring that has become the “hallmark” of Dáil debates is a waste of time and serves only to distract attention from the important functions of Government. – Yours, etc,


Cootehill, Co Cavan.

Sir, – Some years ago I published a research report, They Shoot Children, Don’t They? It documented so-called punishment attacks on young people and children by loyalist and republican paramilitaries.

Of those victims I interviewed then and subsequently, virtually without exception, none was prepared to make claims in public. One of these was hospitalised as far back as 1985 after a beating in a parent’s backyard. This was carried out by members of the IRA. He still will not speak openly almost three decades later, although he can name some of those involved. One is now a leading member of Sinn Féin in Belfast.

The reasons are simple. Whatever assurances Sinn Féin might give through its media presentations, the reality at street level can be very different. In loyalist and republican areas individuals are vulnerable in all kinds of way, not only personally but through a variety of avenues, including threats against family, kinfolk and friends. As one cautioned: “You never know”.

This makes Maíria Cahill’s challenge to power, albeit power of the invisible and unaccountable kind, both exceptional and all the more admirable. – Yours, etc,


Professor Emeritus,

Institute of

Irish Studies,

Queen’s University,


Sir, – I have sympathy with much of what has been said on both sides of the debate about Ciaran O’Neill’s article on independent secondary schools in Ireland (“Paying for privilege”, Education Opinion, October 21st). I am the headmaster of Headfort School, a non-denominational, co-ed, independent prep school for children from three to 13 located near Kells in Co Meath. Headfort receives no State subvention.

I am often asked would I like the State to support Headfort in the way it supports independent secondary schools. My answer is that I am ambivalent on this question. I feel it would be unfair on the taxpayer, yet, if the school did receive State support, it could lower its fees. Headfort is building up its bursary programme whereby it is able to enrol children from families who would not be able to pay full fees; yet with most of our teachers paid by the State, we could immediately drop fees significantly. American and British independent schools, none of whose teachers are paid with state funds, are so expensive that they are way out of reach for the vast majority of families. This has created a massive gulf that does not exist in the same way in Ireland, whose independent secondary schools, while expensive, are much more affordable. – Yours, etc,



Headfort School,

Kells, Co Meath.

Sir, – It was heartening to read Ciaran O’Neill’s critical, contextual and informative article.

Patrick Cassidy (October 23rd) offers two standard arguments in opposition: that every child has the right to a State-funded education; and that some parents simply top this up with fees, and this practice saves the State money.

I am not convinced by either of these arguments. It is a curious practice to enable people to top up their rights with private funds, though admittedly this practice is prevalent in Ireland in both education and healthcare. We would not accept a situation in which people can top up their right to security – for instance, where people who pay a fee are offered something akin to “platinum protection” by the Garda or fire services, with special Garda stations and fire stations with improved resources set apart from the standard network. The concept is as offensive in education (and healthcare) as it is in security, even if we have been conditioned to regard it as normal.

As to whether it saves the State money, perhaps it does, but it also has a pernicious effect on the free second-level education sector. Rather than freeing up additional funds for State schools, the political effect is to actually diminish their resources.

Imagine if all letters written in defence of Ireland’s anomalous subsidy to fee-charging schools, and all the lobbying done in its favour (both individual and ecclesial), were instead directed at seeking additional supports for all schools. Imagine if the typical children of ambassadors, judges, partners in large firms, senior civil servants, and government ministers were as reliant on the State as other children are for funding for sports facilities, extracurricular activities, and other educationally valuable resources. I think a much better-resourced education sector would emerge, funded by the State and open to all. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – It was interesting to read the different attitudes to private education, with those opposing objecting to the State support for these schools. What no-one seems to have said is that those paying for private education are generally significant taxpayers and have through their taxes already paid for State schools. Surely we are entitled to spend our taxed income on private education, private medical care or, for that matter, whatever we wish! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Johanna Lowry O’Reilly (October 24th) suggests that families with the right ethos are entitled to private schooling and that “most parents whose children don’t attend private schools wouldn’t want them to”. Since these private schools were generally established by the main Christian churches, how would the founder of Christianity evaluate this extremely elitist position? – Yours, etc,


Australian Catholic


Brisbane, Australia.

Sir, – Most citizens who are currently being asked to register with Irish Water have already paid handsomely in taxes during their lifetime for the current water infrastructure. I propose that in order to acknowledge this undisputed fact and to avoid the problem of asking citizens to pay twice, the State should issue one share in Irish Water to each citizen as a reward for their investment to date. Each year we would receive a dividend and when it is eventually sold, we would all get a nice lump sum.

As a shareholder of Irish Water, I would be much more likely to register and pay my water charges. – Yours, etc,


Rathgar, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Laurence Hogan (October 24th) is wrong to claim that the troika required Ireland to introduce water charges in order to help pay back the bailout loans. The reality is that the troika’s assessment of the Irish taxation structure showed it to have become dangerously overdependent on windfall tax revenues from an unsustainable property bubble.

When that bubble inevitably burst, tax revenues duly collapsed with it, creating a massive and unsustainable budget deficit. As such, the troika’s insistence on water charges and a property tax merely sought to bring Ireland into line with other developed countries, where such taxes make the tax base more sustainable, more predictable, and less reliant on transaction taxes and short-term windfalls from one overblown sector of the economy. – Yours, etc,


Lucan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly asserts that Irish Water must deal with customers in a “fantastic way” (“Kelly seeks ‘people of calibre’ for new board”, October 23rd).

He should know that it is already doing so. It has unnecessarily spent a fantastic amount of money (€50 million) on consultants. It has come up with a fantastic set of repair charges that have turned its repair personnel into said consultants. It is paying its staff fantastic salaries and even more fantastic bonuses, whether they perform or not, and is already overstaffed by a fantastic 33 per cent. It has made fantastic promises regarding timescales for meter installations which cannot be met. It will take a fantastic amount of money out of the economy next year and succeeding years with no published strategy as to how it will be spent and what fantastic advantages will accrue to its fantastic customer base for this most basic civil right. It is quite fantastic to think that it may get away with it.

It is equally fantastic that the Coalition might think it has a hope of re-election on the back of such a fantastic cock-up. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – For the second time on an RTÉ news programme, I have heard Clare Daly TD state that we pay for our water through the general tax system and that she is not in the habit of paying twice for services.

I live in a rural area and am not connected to either the mains water or sewage system. I have incurred the capital cost and ongoing running costs of installing a water pump and effluent treatment plant. I also pay my taxes on the same basis as other citizens of this State. Does this mean that I, and hundreds of thousands of others, are due a repayment of tax, as we have paid for a water service over many years which was not provided to us by the State? – Yours, etc,


Monasterevin, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Regarding the European Court of Human Rights ruling on the question of The Irish Times’s costs of its legal battle with the Mahon tribunal (Front Page, October 24th), a battle that the newspaper won, by the way, it is a sad day for freedom of expression and freedom of the press. It’s all very well to shrug our shoulders, but this judgment will have a chilling effect on media freedom, particularly in those European states where freedom of the press is still something of a comparative novelty. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – I can hear the howls of anguish from the chattering classes as it dawns on them that even their sacred cow, The Irish Times, is not entitled to take upon itself , in the words of the European Court of Human Rights, a “role properly reserved to the courts”. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Donald Clarke’s article on fluoride (“Pouring cold water on anti-fluoridation arguments”, Opinion & Analysis, October 11th) misses an essential point – dental decay is not caused by a lack of fluoride. Dental decay is caused by a poor diet and a lack of dental hygiene.

Instead of the fluoridation of drinking water, we need a public education campaign on the importance of brushing teeth and avoiding sugary foods.

In addition to drinking water, the Irish population is exposed to fluoride from a variety of sources, including toothpaste, mouthwashes, dental floss, as well as from fluoride-containing foods such as sardines and tea.

Fluoride, therefore, does not need to be in the drinking water supply, which gives the population a chemical whose dose is dependent simply on how thirsty they are. It is simply wrong to address a problem with a non-chemical cause by adding more chemicals to our already polluted world. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – Joe Cleary worries that the lack of a Swedish embassy in Ireland (October 18th) amounts to a lack of recognition by Sweden of our State. Mr Cleary should note that when Ireland’s need was dire, the Swedes (along with the Danes and those pesky, friendly Brits) stumped up over €1 billion in bilateral loans to us.

The absence of a full-time ambassador or staff did not seem to limit Swedish solidarity as our economy crashed.

The recent recalibration in the Swedish foreign service was designed to deliver more efficiencies in the wider context of our joint membership of the European Union. A grand pile on embassy row in Dublin seems counterintuitive to investing in 24/7, 365 diplomatic resources where they can make a true difference.

In making its diplomacy smarter and soft-power reach longer, we could learn from much from Sweden’s example. – Yours, etc,


Harold’s Cross,

Sir, – Gordon Linney never fails to challenge and inspire (“Compassion – the heart of the ministry of Jesus”, Thinking Anew, October 18th). Commenting on the views of a lecturer on ethics who was reported as saying that compassion would not solve any problems in the NHS, he so rightly notes that “healing is not just about drugs and procedures, it is about people with feelings and anxieties who need and deserve compassion and understanding”.

Compassion in my dictionary has many definitions, all bordering on understanding, humanity, concern and care. Perhaps it is worth adding the oft-quoted words of Maya Angelou, “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. – Yours, etc,




Bride Road, Dublin 8.

Sir, – As we approach October 31st, may I appeal to radio and television broadcasters, politicians and social commentators, and all those who respect the spoken word, to study the vowel arrangements in the word Halloween, particularly the first vowel? There’s nothing hollow about it. – Yours, etc,


Renmore, Galway.

Sir, – Fluoridation of water. Privilege in private schools. Could we have something on Roy Keane to make this week a hat-trick? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – With reference to the letter that appeared on October 24th, your correspondent may be interested to know that the automatic border control gates, which are currently being trialled, have been operating on a 24/7 basis since early October. – Yours, etc,


Press Officer,

Department of Justice

and Equality,

Dublin 2.

Irish Independent:

“From the solemn gloom of the temple children run out to sit in the dust, God watches them play and forgets the priest.” – Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet.

Whether one believes in God, Darwinism or any other theory in between; the one undeniable fact of life is that all of it is driven to extend itself through offspring. The driving force that is death underlies this charge. It is inevitable and yet we all – each and every one of us – are a celebration of life that has observed the same sun in many guises since time began.

With all the talk of precious resources is it not time for humanity to recognise that the Earth’s children are at the very top of the pile when it comes to placing a value on our existence?

Yet, all over the world, children suffer. Children don’t manipulate politics to cause war or famine. Children don’t dream up schemes of combining their efforts to grow wealth beyond their wildest dreams. Children only want to play – to escape the gloom.

One of the most horrific stories to emerge regarding children this year – and there were many, many examples – was the bombing of four young boys as they played football on a beach in Gaza. They were engaged in that most innocent and joyful pastime of dancing with a ball at their feet – and they were killed in cold blood.

Our Government – which is paid to promote the notion of peaceful settlement of conflict throughout the world -conveyed their usual silence, however.

But not the Seanad. The Seanad voted this week to recognise the State of Palestine. They voted to give Gaza and other areas in Palestine a voice that has been muted and ignored for years, a voice that has been placed under the harshest of treatments by its neighbour.

While the Seanad has provided many a day of groaning disbelief with some of its antics and comments, this week it stood up to the plate and proved itself worthy of its existence.

Take a bow, Senators!

Dermot Ryan, Athenry, Co Galway.


Central Bank restrictions

A lot of articles have been written about the fact that Central Bank restrictions are excessive. In 1995, when I bought my house, the deposit ratio was 34pc. I thought it a bit excessive at the time, but that was pre-bubble deposit ratio.

This makes the central banks restrictions seem reasonable and wise.

The problem is that people’s expectation of house prices are too high and bank lending is too loose. This is what is forcing higher prices.

I would be more concerned about increasing my standard of living and having a higher disposable income, or money left from when one pays a mortgage.

If I could actually move to another part of the country, it would be Limerick. I don’t know whether their house prices will rise, but it is the city with the greatest potential and it has high rental returns, and high income relative to house prices.

This, of course, was highlighted by David McWilliams earlier this year. He is a beautiful writer.

Darragh Condren, Dundrum, Dublin 16

Deliver us from ‘old’ politics

I think most people here believe Mairia Cahill and her account of her horrendous treatment at the hands of the IRA.

I also think that Gerry Adams should personally – and on behalf of Sinn Fein – apologise to her for all the trauma she endured, even though neither he nor his party had any hand, act or part in the affair.

The ‘storm’ in the Dail over the issue is nothing more than a smoke screen by the Coalition and Fianna Fail to divert attention from the economic mess they have created. They just do not get it. They are as thick as a double ditch.

People are sick and tired of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail. The minister who pushed through the property and water taxes has been rewarded with a top job in the EU.

The property tax and water taxes were approved by the Dail and thus belong to the category of ‘legalised robbery’. If the government had an ounce of cop on, they would resign immediately and call for fresh elections. I can safely predict that the winner would be Sinn Fein – since they are the only party saying the right things.

However, I shall not be voting for them since they – like all the other parties – are in favour of more abortion, same-sex marriage and an end to our blasphemy law. In fact, the silent majority (ie Catholics) have been disenfranchised. Christian morality has been swept aside.

Who then can we vote for? It is pointless voting for Independents as they have no power.

The country badly needs a Messiah, a new party of honest men and women that will reform our corrupt system of government.

James M Bourke, Terenure, Dublin 6


Irish Water a predictable mess

It’s not until they actually start work in your estate that you realise what an unmitigated cock-up the decision to place a water meter outside practically every house in the country was.

In years to come this is going to be one of those issues that will be discussed on Prime Time.

“Minister the recent inquiry (yes, there will be one) has found that the then-government acted with an astonishing degree of incompetence in its decision to install water meters outside every house in the country, a decision that plunged the country into political and financial turmoil resulting in political stalemate for the foreseeable future. What’s your take on it, Minister?”

The one thing we have learned in Ireland over our 100-year history is that we never learn by our mistakes. In my opinion, this government came into office with the intention of making the vast majority of the population poor.

They have just over a year to achieve their goal and they are well on course.

To paraphrase Brendan Behan: “If it was raining soup the Irish government would go out with forks.”

Mike Burke, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare


Ever feel like you’ve been ad?

We are constantly reminded by our state broadcaster that it’s our licence fee that makes quality Irish programmes and services possible.

Although the RTE player is cited as one of these services, it would seem that our downpayment is forgotten when we are forced to spend 60 seconds of our time watching advertisements that can’t be skipped.

Peadar Grant, Dundalk, Co Louth


Petit mort before a little life

With regard to Sean McElgunn’s letter (Irish Independent, October 23 “Sex is God’s creation”) please note the following – without good, precious and beautiful sex, none of us would be here!

Brian McDevitt, Glenties, Co Donegal


Channelling my dissatisfaction

The night before last I sat in the living room watching the telly. Last night, I actually turned it on. The night before last was better.

Brendan Casserly, Bishopstown, Cork

Irish Independent


October 24, 2014

24 October 2014 Tidy

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day sweep the path give away an old computer

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Michael Hayes was an actor turned TV director who filmed three series of Doctor Who and gave Julie Christie her first screen role

Michael Hayes on location in Tenby in 1961

Michael Hayes on location in Tenby in 1961

5:49PM BST 23 Oct 2014


Michael Hayes, who has died aged 85, was a prolific television director and producer, radio newsreader and former Shakespearean actor .

He is best known for directing three series of Doctor Who (starring Tom Baker, 1978-79), An Age of Kings (1960) and The Promise (1969). He gave Julie Christie her screen debut in the seminal science fiction serial A for Andromeda (1961), directing all seven episodes. His directorial work also includes episodes of Z-Cars, Maigret, Sherlock Holmes, Take Three Girls, The Onedin Line, When the Boat Comes In and All Creatures Great and Small.

Later, his distinctive voice became familiar to many radio listeners when reading the BBC World Service News from 1986 to 1994.

Michael Hayes was born at Barking, Essex, on April 3 1929, to Thomas Patrick Hayes, a civil servant, and his wife Alice (née Tindale), who died when her son was two years old.

He was evacuated to Yorkshire in 1940 and educated at Harrogate Grammar School. In 1944 the 15-year-old Hayes was “discovered” by the playwright Dr Falkland Cary while appearing in a local amateur theatrical production, and was given a principal role in Cary’s latest play, Burning Gold, at the Royal Hall in Harrogate. He told Cary of his intention to pursue a theatrical career, and subsequently achieved his ambition by touring in America with the Old Vic and becoming a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

His BBC career began as a studio manager for the World Service, after which he transferred to television as a floor manager and assistant director. His first credited work as director was An Age of Kings, a linking together of Shakespeare history plays portraying the lives of monarchs spanning the decades between Richard II and Richard III. Hayes directed all 15 episodes, in which he worked with such future stars as Judi Dench, Sean Connery, Frank Windsor, Anthony Valentine and Robert Hardy.

He took on the Doctor Who assignment in 1978 with a short-lived early lack of enthusiasm, but by the end of his third series he had abandoned these misgivings and afterwards counted the actor Tom Baker as one of his friends.

A keen horseman and ornithologist, Hayes moved to the Kent countryside in 1971 and commuted to Wood Lane and later Bush House for the World Service.

He leaves a daughter, Alisoun, from his marriage to the actress Mary Chester, and a son Patrick and daughter Kelly from his marriage to writer Jane Phillips.

Michael Hayes, born April 3 1929, died September 16 2014


Blood pressure test: the chief executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens. Blood pressure test: the chief executive of the NHS in England, Simon Stevens. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

One of the major failings of the NHS Five Year Forward View (Price of saving the NHS: £8bn extra by 2020, 23 October) is the lack of emphasis on social care and the need for a more integrated approach. Over the past few years social care has been cut back to the bare bone by cash-strapped local authorities. As a result, many disabled and older people will miss out on the services they desperately need for day-to-day life.

Inadequate social care has a knock-on effect and results in further demands on the NHS. For example, the deaf-blind people we support can become more susceptible to falls or require hospital treatment because they didn’t get the support they needed from social care. The government must act and provide the funding that will allow disabled people to receive adequate care, which in turn would reduce pressure on the NHS.

It is vital that social care is not overlooked in NHS planning. The potential long-term savings to the public purse and benefits for older and disabled people cannot be ignored.
Richard Kramer
Deputy chief executive, Sense

• Denis Campbell’s scepticism about Simon Stevens’s “tablets of stone” (the NHS Five Year Forward View) is right (How to save the NHS in just 50 pages, 22 October). As Tony Blair’s senior health adviser, Stevens [now chief executive of NHS England] was instrumental in furthering the privatisation of the NHS started by Thatcher, now continued by Cameron. In 2002 Stevens, with the health secretary Alan Milburn and his adviser Paul Corrigan, met the CEO of Kaiser Permanente, the Californian healthcare company. Further visits followed, culminating in the Commons health committee going as a group to California in 2007 to discuss how to plan a free-market health system and the likely shape of the future workforce.

Blair’s government also invited UnitedHealth, another major privatisation player, to play a leading role determining how NHS services in England should be configured. Stevens became UnitedHealth’s vice-president, later president, for global health, in which position he was credited with playing a key role in resisting President Obama’s health reforms. He was formerly a trustee of the King’s Fund, an oft-quoted, as if independent, health thinktank. I hope I’m wrong that Stevens’s “tablets” will connive at establishing further NHS privatisation leading to a two-or three-tier NHS, funded by insurance payments, modelled on US lines.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

• The NHS is asking for £1.5bn a year over the life of the next government, on top of the annual rises it’s been getting so far. That would pay for big once-for-all improvements as well as the routine stuff. If it gets the money, and the economy grows at a reasonable 2.5% a year, then by 2020 the cost of the NHS will have risen from 6.4% of GDP to 6.8%. The GDP we have left to spend on everything else will have gone up by 2.4% a year. Sounds very affordable to me.
Cristina Howick

• There is only one fair way of funding the NHS and that is via income tax. I do not think many people would object to paying, say, an extra 2% if it were hypothecated. Call it the health tax, if you like. It would be easier to collect than a mansion tax and more reliable than an extra tax on cigarettes and alcohol, just two examples that have been floated.
John Marriott
North Hykeham, Lincolnshire

• Abandoning the internal market would save the English NHS £10bn and removing the disastrous Wonga-style PFI loans would save the taxpayer about £50bn. There’s a good chunk of money to invest in patient care.
Dr David Wrigley (GP)
Carnforth, Lancashire

• Recently I had to undergo an unavoidable surgical operation. As the surgeon of my choice was unavailable at the local NHS hospitals, I chose to dip into my savings to be referred to him at the nearest BMI hospital where he worked. I had to stay there for 10 days before being sent home to complete my recovery. I discovered that this excellent hospital had unused bed capacity, so it also accepted some overflow patients from the local overloaded NHS service.

It seems that one reform that would relieve pressure on NHS hospitals would be to allow subscribers to private health insurance to offset these subscriptions against their income tax. This would open up private medical facilities to less affluent taxpayers. It would also increase the services offered by providers of health insurance. It extends personal freedom, also.
Geoffrey Bucknall
Barnard Castle, County Durham

• Once again the debate about the NHS centres around people managing their own lives more healthily on the basis that prevention is better than cure. So we are led to believe that obesity, alcoholism and diabetes all result from people’s lack of willpower and that if they’d only have more self-discipline all would be well.

But people’s choices are constrained by the culture within which they live and by the choices open to them. A glance around any supermarket will show a proliferation of foods high in sugar and fats. Even hospitals host food outlets whose shelves heave with unhealthy foods.

We were promised minimum-priced alcohol and plain-packed cigarettes but this never happened, so we can only conclude that the profits of companies takes priority over the nation’s health. Alcohol, food and cigarette companies can do what they like to maximise their profits and the tab is picked up by the NHS.
Eileen Peck
Benfleet, Essex

• Shortfall for NHS: £30bn (Report, 23 October); shortfall of tax collection: £32bn (Report, 22 October). Problem solved, with a bit left over.
Dr Neville W Goodman

• It was timely reading the article by David Oliver (We should stop talking about burdens, Society, 15 October). Here in Bolton integrated care is rolling out for the over-65s; in one area this has meant a nurse knocking on doors asking to carry out an intimate body examination for pressure sores: no warning and no prior permission sought. Apparently we have all been “risk stratified” without our knowledge in order to prevent us from being admitted to hospital.

The coalition will roll out this US-style healthcare approach in April: more hospital beds will be cut and healthcare moved to the community. I really think we need to start the debate about integrated care: it purports to offer a quality, cost-effective alternative to hospital-based care for elderly people but research on the English pilots has found it is not cost-effective and patients found that they had much less control over their healthcare.

Are we experiencing upheaval and spending millions on a healthcare system that is discriminatory and rations healthcare for the elderly by denying them access to hospitals and specialist care? As David Oliver says, “it is inherently ageist to be talking about how older people should be kept away [from hospitals]”.
Christine Howarth

• If the sustainability of the NHS depends on “a radical upgrade in prevention and public health”, the first step is already well mapped out. The Boorman report on the health and wellbeing of more than a million NHS staff showed clearly what health employers need to do, to benefit population health and staff productivity and to save costs every year. There would also be knock-on benefits to the families of the staff, many of whom also care for relatives. Simon Stevens was interviewed by Jeremy Vine about employers and obese employees on Radio 2 today. A subsequent caller berated the NHS because they saw so many obese staff working there. This neglect of occupational health is real, requiring a caring and co-ordinated national response. Does Mr Stevens have the required heart and guts?
Professor Woody Caan
Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge

• Reading about the future plans of NHS England leaves me deeply concerned (NHS boss Simon Stevens defends privatisation,, 23 October). While the focus of the report on meaningfully addressing the root causes of ill-health and the need for radical upgrade and financial support for prevention and evidence-based public health interventions is to be admired, the defence of the infrastructures of the market and privatisation are deeply problematic. What is worrying about the report is the broad acceptance of the ethic and discourse of privatisation, with its emphasis on personalisation, local flexibility in rules and regulatory requirements and a focus on efficiencies. The issues of infrastructure and organisation in the NHS are issues of funding. Breaking down boundaries between doctors and hospitals and between physical and mental health may in some contexts be useful but they are not THE key issues that are faced by services, professionals and patients. This plays into the “the NHS is unfundable and needs to change” idea where there appear to be no alternatives. There are alternatives beyond the politics of tinkering embraced by the three main parties. The key issues facing the NHS are constant chronic underfunding compared to other developed countries, wasteful internal markets, bankrupting PFI deals, damaging physical and mental health impacts of austerity economics, and a clear failure to understand the way that other core economic issues impact the funding available for the NHS (for instance, tax avoidance, paying £600m in bonuses to publicly owned RBS bankers despite its continued loss making, George Osborne campaigning against EU bonus caps, record income inequality and wage stagnation to name but a few). We pay at least £5bn annually on an internal market that does not improve patient care . We have just seen an unnecessary and damaging £3bn top-down reorganisation of the NHS. The answer to the health of our nation is manifestly not efficiency savings and use of the private sector.
Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action Party

Enoch Powell in front of union flag, 1969 Tory Enoch Powell also did badly in the 1964 general election. Photograph: Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Keith Graham (Letters, 21 October) suggests an alternative reason for Patrick Gordon Walker’s 1964 Smethwick defeat. But his theory that it was the intervention of a Liberal candidate, on a higher turnout, that swung the result is factually wrong and also at odds with the national trends in that election. The turnout was down, not up, in Smethwick, by 2% (also nationally). Obviously, third candidate reduced the percentage votes of Tory and Labour. However, across the country the Tories lost a parliamentary majority of 100, their vote down by 6%. In Smethwick their percentage vote increased by over 2%. In contrast, in neighbouring Wolverhampton, one Enoch Powell, with a Liberal also intervening, lost nearly 7% of his vote. Peter Griffiths’ unsavoury campaigning is still the best explanation of the 1964 result.
Dave Padley
Le Bourg, Blanot, France

Foot of new born baby ‘Until mothers are treated with real kindness while having children, mental health problems will continue,’ writes Christina Naylor. Photograph: Kennet Havgaard/Getty Images/Aurora Creative

Your report (£8bn cost of mental illness in maternity, 20 October) made me very sad. I have been involved for 13 years in Home Start, a charity that supports young families, many of which suffer from postnatal depression, by supporting them with trained volunteers in their homes until they feel able to cope. Our small branch supported 68 families with 159 children last year. However, earlier this year, our funding from the county council and health authority ceased after 17 years and we’ve been unable to attract other funding to continue supporting young families in this area. We have been turned down by some funders as we are not considered a deprived area. We still have a team of trained volunteers and referrals from health visitors but are unable to respond without funding. Government and local authority policies are shortsighted and by cutting costs this way create more problems.
Susan Eden
Denford, Northamptonshire

• As is suggested in the Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s report, the cost of £8bn a year is likely to be an underestimate – with considerably greater expenditure if the calculations include the cost of educational intervention and support. Children who, through no fault of their own, do not experience good care in the early stages of life very often later require specialised staff and resources in schools. In over 25 years of working in some of the most deprived parts of the north-east, I’ve witnessed the disastrous effects of poverty and poor care on children’s wellbeing and education. As you also report in the same issue (Council asks: what would you cut?) the effects of “austerity” (aka extreme poverty) on the capacity of key agencies to make a difference is increasing. Thus, at the present rate we should, sadly, be expecting an above-inflation rate of increase on the £8bn already cited. When will we start to join up the dots?
Dr Simon Gibbs
Reader in educational psychology, programme director for initial training in educational psychology, and head of education, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, University of Newcastle

• Your article highlighting the lack of prenatal mental health care misses the most important point. That is the quality of care women have during childbirth. Having had four children, I know how women can feel abandoned (left to get on with it), and how first-time mothers, especially, can feel shocked at the pain. Luckily it is temporary. Everyone coos over the new baby, and the mother’s ordeal is forgotten. Until mothers are treated with real kindness while having children, mental health problems will continue. The present shortage of midwives will only make things worse.
Christina Naylor
Languenan, Brittany, France

This handout picture taken on September Rescuers from the Italian navy help migrants to leave an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean sea. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Many thanks for the report on deaths of migrants at the frontiers of Europe (‘It costs $10,000 to get from A to B…’, 21 October). In October 2013, with its Mare Nostrum operation to rescue migrants at sea, Italy took on a responsibility that the rest of the EU shirked. Mare Nostrum has not been exempt from criticism – for its military nature, lack of transparency, its failures in view of the fact that according to UNHCR 3,000 people have drowned since the start of this year. But the operation at least started using a different perspective. Italy’s attempt to enact a mere “humanitarian corridor” adapted to the Euro-Mediterranean context is a first step.

The Mare Nostrum operation is scheduled to end on 1 November. The European commission and the EU member states have not proposed any solution to take over from the operation. The planned strengthening of border controls by Frontex through operation Triton in the Mediterranean (Frontex Plus) is not a sea rescue operation. However, more than a humanitarian rescue operation is needed. To put an end to migrants’ deaths in the Mediterranean and elsewhere requires increased entry into the European territory for those who choose it or are forced into exile.

We think of the English Channel as our frontier. But as experienced by migrants including refugees, the UK frontier is in Calais, the Mediterranean and UK consulates worldwide. To help improve the problems faced by migrants in Calais, Greece, Italy and the Mediterranean requires action by the whole EU, including the UK.
Bill MacKeith

A city council security guard photographs a piece of street art attributed to Banksy in Bristol A security guard photographs a piece of street art attributed to Banksy titled The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum after it was defaced in an alleyway in Bristol. Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters

George Monbiot (‘Cleansing the stock’ and the doublepeak we must defeat, 22 October) could be said to be restating George Steiner’s arguments for what he called the “retreat from the word”, whereby language is deformed and then reformed entirely empty of human or humane content, terrifyingly in Nazi Germany, and no less disturbingly in “the benefit units” and “collateral damage” of our linguistically perverted times. Some of the worst offenders in this debasement of language are those responsible for what passes today as educational policy, just as guilty as the militarists in hanging on to miserable and demeaning metaphors.

“To know what we are talking about: this, in more than one sense, is the task of those who want a better world,” sighs Monbiot at the end of his piece. Some sigh … little hope.
Bruce Ross-Smith
Headington, Oxfordshire

• George Monbiot rightly deplores the deliberate use of euphemisms to disguise unpalatable truths. Their insidiousness is such that he admits that even in his own article there may be “dehumanising metaphors” that he has failed to spot. However, he focuses on mainly military usages. More sinister are those everyday euphemisms that are so familiar that we fail to recognise their veiling of the truth. Warming is something we do to teapots and cold beds, something welcome, so global overheating is called “warming”. The damage caused to the climate is called “change”. Horrific illustrations are called “graphic”. And so on. Could the Guardian produce an anti-euphemism supplement to add to the style guide?
Gerry Abbott

• Language expresses biases in many ways. Why did you not describe the Banksy “mural” (Report, 22 October) as vandalism? If it’s because it’s “art”, then perhaps the “blue paint splashed across it” could also be thought of as art, a gestural response to the crude and trivialised parody of a superb Vermeer.
Dr Donald Smith
Haddington, East Lothian

Ofsted criticises academy chain ‘Inspection plays a critical role in driving up standards in education,’ writes Dave Penman of the FDA. Photograph: Barry Batchelor/PA

Zoe Williams states that the problem with Ofsted “is the fact that the entire culture – targets and terror, name and shame, compete and count – discourages what education thrives upon: trust, cooperation, participation” (The entire schools inspection culture is the problem, 20 October). As the union representing Ofsted inspectors, we would agree that education thrives upon trust, cooperation, participation, but dispute that the culture of inspection is one of targets and terror, name and shame, compete and count. Inspection plays a critical role in driving up standards in education. Inspectors are civil servants – politically impartial and appointed under authority of the crown – who work hard to ensure that inspections are conducted robustly and independently within the legal responsibilities laid down by parliament. That is why they believe passionately that Ofsted must inspect every institution without fear or favour, and must continue to guard against politicisation.

Driving up standards in education is rightly at the forefront of most political agenda but it can often be deeply divisive: like most public-sector organisations, Ofsted is neither perfect nor dysfunctional. It’s time to recognise the vital work undertaken every day by these dedicated, passionate public servants who work countless unpaid hours to deliver high-quality inspections in the interest of the nation’s children. Perhaps fingers also need to be pointed at politicians and commentators whose agendas are not progressed by a balanced and evidence-based debate.
Dave Penman
General secretary of the FDA, the union representing senior staff in Ofsted, including Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI)

• Zoe Williams is right to identify that competition is the driving force behind Ofsted, but needs to place its creation in a historical context. In the 80s, the Tories had ambitions not just to privatise the provision of schools, the first stage of which was the introduction of the Local Management of Schools, but also to give each parent a monetary voucher to be spent in whichever school they chose. While the voucher system proved unworkable, the concept of a market was introduced though the notion of “parental choice”, which in turn required criteria upon which such choice could be made. These were introduced in the form of the common curriculum for all schools (except private ones), constant national testing and league tables, with Ofsted created to rate each school on a standardised scale.

As has been pointed out repeatedly by reputable academics ever since, the whole system is ruthlessly based on the demands of free-market economics at the expense of the educational wellbeing of our children. And it is to the eternal shame of Labour and the Liberal Democrats that they have complied in not just the perpetuation of such an iniquitous and damaging system but continue to advocate its expansion.
Colin Burke

• Zoe Williams’ important and perceptive article highlights that “competition can only be fostered in a world of constant measurement”. True, but what is unfortunately not widely recognised is that Ofsted’s approach to measurement is fundamentally flawed. As a physicist and, until recently, a parent governor for my children’s primary school, I have been appalled at the level of statistical innumeracy at the core of Ofsted’s methods.

A key example is Ofsted’s Data Dashboard, which governors are expected to use to inform their decision-making. Remarkably, the dashboard provides no information at all on the statistical reliability of the data – schools are compared and ranked with no indication of the extent to which the variations can be explained by natural statistical fluctuations. Often, the year-to-year fluctuations within a single school are larger than the variation between so-called “similar” schools (and the methods behind identifying “similar” schools are far from robust and well-established).

We teach our first year physics undergraduates that to make a measurement without including an estimate of the error bars is, to quote Wolfgang Pauli slightly out of context, “not even wrong”. One can only imagine what the famously irascible Pauli would have made of Ofsted’s abuse of data.
Philip Moriarty
School of physics and astronomy, University of Nottingham

• Zoe Williams perfectly illustrates the fundamental flaw in so much of social policy – if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t count. Or expressing the McNamara fallacy: you start by measuring what is valuable and end up only valuing what is measurable.
Rick Hall

• After 22 years of doubtful practice and constant moving of goalposts, it is time to abolish Ofsted and re-empower local authorities with local advisers and inspectors who understand the neighbourhood problems of difficult schools. Put the £70m released by ending Ofsted into a massive development of Sure Start centres, linking them to their local primary schools in order to promote language development. Over a few years this will help ensure that many more toddlers get the home support, parental interest and talking and listening skills that prepare them for making good progress in school.

Investment in the cultural as well as the physical development of the earliest years of life, through Sure Start centres, is a key to successful education for many children, and especially for those growing up in impoverished communities.
Professor Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire

• As an ex-chief examiner and chair of an A-level board with 35 years of experience, I did not find this report surprising (Fears over poor marking as appeals for A-level and GCSE exams hit new high, 22 October) but Russell Hobby’s concern over inequities as to the ability of schools to challenge grades is disturbing. Boards do have rigorous systems to try to meet the required standards, and examiners are usually reasonably qualified and try their best but are bedevilled by restrictions of time and cost. For instance, a procedure whereby principal examiners and chiefs would laboriously go through all scripts on the borderline to make sure the grade was correct has long since been abandoned as too time consuming and expensive.

As the joint council said, most of the mark changes were “relatively small”, the vast majority of these appeals would have been covered by borderlining and schools would not have had to pay. At grade-setting meetings there is an elaborate procedure of checking scripts but not enough to time to really do it despite the appearances of so doing. Scripts that have been wrongly marked are flagged up and passed to a principal for remarking but these are only a tiny proportion of small samples so it is known that there must be others.

Marking is not an exact science in most subjects so re-marks are essential, but if the numbers are increasing it would seem the reason is more to do with time and expense than the markers and the procedures in themselves. A return to borderlining would mitigate against the observed inequities.
Susan Saunders Vosper

Coffin with brass handles ‘My mother’s funeral cost us around £3,500; her insurance policies paid out £80 and £120 respectively.’ Photograph: George Doyle/Getty Images

You report Ukip’s assertion that profits from Mike Read’s Calypso single were to be donated to the Red Cross “for their Ebola outreach programme” (Report, 23 October). It’s worth mentioning that the Red Cross responded by saying it cannot accept donations from party political sources, and that its job is to help precisely those that Mike Read and Ukip “negatively refer to”. Oh, and it doesn’t have an Ebola outreach programme. And before the single was withdrawn, it was made clear that all proceeds from sales were for Ukip party funds.
Dan Adler
Farnham, Surrey

• Jonathan Watts reports from Rio de Janeiro that 402 square kilometres – “more than six times the area of the island of Manhattan” – of the Brazilian Amazon was cleared in September (Report, 20 October). Being English and reading my English newspaper in England this is of limited value. How many Isles of Wight is that?
Chas Moore
Wickford, Essex

• I read with interest the funeral directors’ comments about people taking out their own penny insurance policies to pay for their funeral (Return of the pauper’s funeral, G2, 21 October). My mother had told us we would not have to bear the expense of her funeral as she had two life insurance policies, which included one taken out by her mother in 1924. She died 10 years ago aged 93, and her funeral cost us around £3,500; the insurance policies paid out £80 and £120 respectively. So much for prudent planning.
Mabel Taylor
Knutsford, Cheshire

• I told my stepmother, a dressmaker, and a very good one, who was very fussy about her appearance, that I belonged to a profession that didn’t judge people by the way they dress (Why do academics dress so badly, 21 October). “Well, they ought to,” she snapped back.
Dr Roger Leitch

• Surely it must be the Selfiescene (Letters, passim)?
Roger Walker



Sir, The proposal to pay GPs £55 for each new patient diagnosed with dementia beggars belief (report, Oct 22). Diagnosing illness is not an extra service commitment, and introducing financial incentives for a diagnosis sets a dreadful precedent. What about other conditions, cancer for example? The fact that this proposal has been put forward illustrates the gap between the objectives of an honourable profession and a managerial bureaucracy that is intent on its deconstruction.

The reality is that patients do not always want a diagnosis, especially with conditions like dementia. In these circumstances, many individuals, who in the early stage of the disease are coping independently or with family support, do not want a label for their condition. There may be medicines that slow the process, but they are of no interest to an individual who is avoiding the issue, and while they are mentally competent their wishes should be respected. To subject such individuals to tests and scans to prove they have dementia is inhuman, yet that could be the result of this proposal.
John Spivey
Consultant surgeon (Ret’d), Watermillock, Cumbria

Sir, It is essential to promote good health through preventive medical care, rather than just treatment. Enormous credit must go to those GPs and community services that regularly check patients for ageing conditions and recommend preventive measures, such as establishing a lifestyle — including exercise and diet — which is known to limit the onset of dementia.
RKM Sanders, MD
Tewkesbury, Glos

Sir, Having an aged parent with advanced Alzheimer’s, I’m strongly supportive of better and earlier diagnosis of dementia, but I find NHS England’s proposal deeply disturbing. Well-intentioned it may be, but this initiative looks more like an ugly combination of a medical bounty and a deeply flawed PR gimmick.
Paul Connew
St Albans

Sir, When my wife started to have memory problems, our GP referred her to a local psychiatric hospital. A consultant psychiatrist came to our house and tested my wife, which took the best part of an hour. A preliminary diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia was made and later confirmed by other tests. When are GPs going to find time adequately to test patients for dementia?
Peter Woodcock
Wigan, Greater Manchester

Sir,Many GPs have little training in mental health, and until this is rectified it will be best to refer patients who may have dementia to community mental health teams. I assisted with running a memory clinic, so saving the time a GP would take. The screening included a memory test and also a look at how well a person deals with everyday tasks, which was useful for social services to assess the level of help needed. The problems that dementia brings can be eased by close co-operation between the NHS and social services.
Alistair Milner
Retired mental health nurse,
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

Sir, I have more than 40 years’ experience of caring for older people, and understand the importance of early and accurate diagnosis of conditions like dementia. However, the idea that GPs need a financial incentive is ridiculous. That money should instead be spent on training professionals who work with older people to identify the signs of dementia and offer swift support.
Leon Smith
Executive vice president,
Nightingale Hammerson

Sir, I would pay my GP double the £55 fee for him not to tell me I have a crippling disease, for which there is no cure, and for which treatment is forbidden by Nice (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) until it’s too late.
Kate Saunders

Sir, Many GPs would, I’m sure, be happier to see the proposed £55 payment for each diagnosis go instead to the Alzheimer’s Society or a local memory clinic.
Dr Larry Amure, BCHIR
Over, Cambs

Sir, A bored tunnel at Stonehenge of at least 4.5 km (2.8 miles) long would solve both the traffic problems with the A303 and visual blight around this important part of our heritage. The National Trust’s recent advocacy of a 2.9km tunnel, protecting its own land, is short of what is needed. We have asked the government to consider a 4.5 km tunnel.
Reuben Thorpe
Chairman, Rescue: The British Archaeological Trust, Hertford

Sir, Word lists for Scrabble seem to be encouraging some barbarous crimes against language (News, Oct 23) but the words can take care of themselves. Let our transatlantic cousins “unlearn” words. I prefer to “forget” them, which is not only more elegant linguistically but scores three points more.
Edward Turner

Sir, I was about to congratulate you on keeping our Shropshire eateries out of your guide to “Best Food Places”, but then you sneak in, near the end, a Ludlow pub. Can’t you help keep the trendies and yuppies out of our beautiful county? Please.
Ken Broad
Church Aston, Shropshire

Sir, In your report “Chocks away as air officials say ‘roger’ to Spitfire trips” (Oct 20), you say that the Messerschmitt Bf 109 “with its stubby wings cannot match the Spitfire for agility”. One advantage of the German plane generally was that it had fuel injection, whereas Spitfires had carburettors. Messerschmitts could go into a steep climb, in which the Spitfire might stall.
James Swain
Tadworth, Surrey

Sir, It would be fascinating if those who have been so scathing of Renée Zellweger’s new look (“Why Renée’s face broke the rules”, Times2, Oct 23) were brave enough to post pictures of themselves on social media, together with their ages, so we can see the justification they have to judge others.
Richard Spoerry
Broadstairs, Kent


Without landlines there would be little communication in places like Cornwall

People in remote areas often rely on landlines to keep in touch with people

People in remote areas often rely on landlines to keep in touch with people

6:55AM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – I don’t think Cornwall could have been included in the survey of landline usage across Britain. Without a landline there would be little communication in many areas.

I always call to a landline if possible because at least then I know where the recipient is and there is less chance of the call breaking up or the recipient being tempted to talk while driving or being otherwise distracted.

Mag Humphreys
Wadebridge, Cornwall

SIR – My internet went down for about five minutes the other day so I headed downstairs and spoke to my family.

They seemed like nice people.

John Tilsiter
Radlett, Hertfordshire

Brushing up

SIR – If schools are to supervise the brushing of children’s teeth, then at a bare minimum they will need to employ a dental care professional.

There is a network of general dental practices throughout Britain, conveniently situated in every town and village, that is already fully compliant with regulations. Why not pay them for the task?

Howard Koch
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

White water

SIR – I am not surprised at the longevity of Viv Coffey’s skimmed milk.

Skimmed milk has had everything that imparts any taste or flavour removed from it, and is little more than coloured water.

I do not worry about the use-by date on my gold-top as it is consumed with relish long before then.

John Newbury
Warminster, Wiltshire

Lesson for trolls

SIR – Internet trolls can avoid longer sentences (“Tougher sentences won’t stop trolls”) by using more full stops.

Peter Iden
Totnes, Devon

We cannot resolve the problems in our relationship with the EU within the existing framework

The European Scrutiny Committee has recommended the repeal of European laws Photo: REUTERS/STEFAN WERMUTH

6:56AM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – The present EU architecture undermines British democracy and generates massive economic and political instability throughout Europe.

We must reassert the sovereignty of Parliament and enact the present Referendum Bill to allow British voters to have their say as soon as possible.

The European Scrutiny Committee, of which I am chairman, published its unanimous report in November last year recommending the repeal of European laws, where necessary in our national interest, by enacting legislation “notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972” (thereby bypassing the European Court of Justice) and reasserting the use of the veto. We would then make our own laws and would continue trade and political cooperation within Europe.

It is simply not in our national interest to pretend that we can resolve fundamental differences in our relationship with the European Union within the existing framework of European law.

If the Liberal Democrats stand in the way, then the Coalition must be ended.

Sir William Cash MP
London SW1

SIR – José Manuel Barroso, the outgoing president of the European Commission, has been criticised widely for his comments supporting the free movement of people within the European Union.

However, over the last decade Mr Barroso has been entirely consistent in his statements. The free movement of people is a cornerstone of the ultimate EU objective of a European super-state.

It is our own politicians who have told us that the EU is something that it isn’t.

Terry Lloyd

Zimbabwe should be invited to join the wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph

The Cenotaph: Lutyen's masterpiece

The Cenotaph: only Commonwealth members take part in the Armistice Day ceremony Photo: Getty Images

6:57AM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – I was born in Southern Rhodesia, which later became Zimbabwe, a country that we were once proud to describe as the last bastion of the British Empire in Africa.

This year marks the centenary of the First World War. Zimbabwe is no longer a member of the Commonwealth so, despite suffering many casualties, she is barred from laying a wreath at the Armistice Day ceremony at the Cenotaph. Rhodesia was only 24 years old when the war broke out. The bulk of the population, and therefore its soldiers, was of British stock.

An article in January voiced Australia and New Zealand’s concern regarding the “whitewashing” of the contributions made by their military to the war effort. It seems that the Rhodesian dead are suffering the same fate.

Joseph Franco
Cape Town, South Africa

The contract of marriage is rightly enforceable by law

A senior judge has described state support for marriage as ‘social engineering’ Photo: PHOTOLIBRARY

6:58AM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – The notions of Nicholas Mostyn, the High Court family judge, that there should not be two classes of adjudication depending on whether there happens to be a marriage” and that state support for marriage is “social engineering” are utterly misconceived.

The sole justification for the involvement of the courts in the distribution of marital property is that divorce involves the unravelling of a contract. When people get married they freely and formally agree to share their property: and that agreement, like any other, is rightly enforceable by law.

If an advocate stood up in the Commercial Court and protested that the court should not be influenced by a trivial matter such as whether or not the parties had entered into a contract with each other, he or she would likely be reported to the Bar Council. It is disappointing to find that a senior judge is unable or unwilling to grasp this fundamental point.

Alexander Pelling
Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2

Children’s inheritance

SIR – A review of inheritance tax is welcome, but why not keep it simple and fair by excluding homes from the liability?

Most people work all their lives to end up with a home they own, so they resent 40 per cent being taken by the Government. If they can pass on the value to their children, this will help more people to own their own homes without taxpayer-funded schemes.

It has been shown that the cost of collecting inheritance tax negates, to a large extent, the net value to the Treasury as it is so complex. My proposal would also reduce the number of tax inspectors needed to collect the tax, which will otherwise surely need to increase as more people become liable.

Mary Sutherland
London SE23

Roaring success: a boy poses in front of the Merlion statue, Singapore’s trademarked mascot  Photo: Getty Images

6:59AM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – We have much to learn from former colonies such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Some years ago I was offered a temporary post in Singapore as a professional engineer, but first the country’s Department of Labour had to assess my skills and experience against local availability. Once employed, I remained responsible for my own housing and medical expenses and paid local taxes.

In order to overcome labour shortages, quotas were introduced for contractors to import overseas labour, with employment terms monitored to prevent abuse such as poor accommodation or low wages.

Singapore’s approach to controlling skilled professionals and unskilled workers helps to drive its economy forward without reducing employment opportunities for its citizens or putting extra burdens on the state.

Robert Reynolds
Long Compton, Warwickshire

SIR – As one born and educated in colonial Singapore, I know of many aspects of its legislation that would be welcomed by other British citizens, including stiff punishment for littering, vandalism, graffiti, weapons and animal abuse. No softer community service option may take the place of fines or prison sentences.

Diana R Lord
Cockfosters, Hertfordshire

SIR – Two of my children – and their children – live in Singapore and I’m very pleased that my grandchildren’s education and health expectations are so much better than they would be in Britain. As regards “democratic deficiencies”, it’s certainly not a police state. The authorities simply don’t put up with any nonsense and there is a much more disciplined ethos in schools and society generally. We could learn from that.

Dick Soper
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Britain’s jobs rich recovery isn’t helping the Chancellor’s coffers Photo: PA

6:07PM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – I am a stay-at-home mother of twins whose professional life is becoming a distant memory. Practically everything my family eats is cooked by me from scratch, with the exception of bread and occasionally fish fingers or baked beans.

This is sometimes rewarding, mostly tedious and undoubtedly a complete waste of my former skills. But I do this because I believe that to rely on convenience foods is to compromise my family’s health.

How can policy-makers be persuaded to recognise that overworked households cannot remain healthy households?

Incidentally, our children’s school dinners, even at their well-run state school, continue to be dull and nutritionally unimpressive.

Rosalind Oliver

SIR – Instead of spending money on child care, why doesn’t the Government give it to the mothers who stay at home?

Maybe then we would see a return to better-mannered children who benefit from a family life and are not shunted off to child-minders.

Shirley Clayton
Pitsea, Essex

SIR – While I respect the decision of any mother to go out to work if she wishes to, I feel that mothers have a very important job at home bringing up the next generation, which is being totally undervalued.

Perhaps if one parent stayed at home there would be no need for teachers to take on parental duties such as brushing teeth.

Sheila Robbie
Killearn, Stirlingshire

SIR – George Osborne wants to encourage stay-at-home mothers to “work”. The NHS wants us to take responsibility for our physical and mental health. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Borrowing for September rose to £11.8 billion, reportedly due to weak tax receipts. The majority of mothers returning to work would fall beneath the tax threshold, so increased funding for child care would offer no financial benefit to the Government.

Mr Osborne wants to encourage stay-at-home mothers into jobs. This mother intends to encourage him out of one.

Margaret Rogers
Stroud, Gloucestershire

SIR – Many grandparents will incur a full-time unpaid child-care burden, since professional child care is unaffordable.

What will happen as grandparents are forced to retire later?

D M Watkins
Plaxtol, Kent

SIR – Back-to-work mothers, frozen eggs, toy-boys for the over-40s, otherwise lots of ice-cream: all good for the economy. First things second?

The Revd Lionel Atherton
Buxton, Derbyshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – After the Ryan and Murphy reports, Irish people know the deeply scarring consequences of blind loyalty to an organisation. Some within Sinn Féin now rank alongside those Catholic bishops that put the protection of their own institutions ahead of the protection and needs of the victims of abuse and, indeed, ahead of simple, human decency. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – If given the choice I wonder if Gerry Adams would prefer trial by media or trial by a paramilitary “court”. I think I know which I would prefer to receive my “sentence” from. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Gerry Adams is again being “tried” by the media and politicians without due process. The irony is that many of those involved are amongst a coterie of individuals that also took part in savage, vitriolic attacks on John Hume when the peace process was in its infancy and subsequently, as that process matured into the Belfast Agreement.

It is hard to believe it now but that campaign against John Hume was every bit as vicious as the current campaign waged against Mr Adams. Thankfully, they along with many others persevered and brought that part of the peace process to its final conclusion, with the signing of the Belfast Agreement, much, I might add, to the discomfort and displeasure of many of those individuals who would have preferred to see the process fail. – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.

Sir, – Sinn Féin’s vice-president Mary Lou McDonald TD is reported as claiming that the party has no information on child abuse. Does she really believe that the IRA punishment beatings and kneecappings of minors were not child abuse? Does she really believe that nobody in Sinn Féin had any involvement in this? Incredible. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Reading the plethora of letters from readers slating Irish Water, one could be forgiven for thinking that Ireland was an otherwise well-run country with Singaporean efficiency and Swiss neatness.

In fact, the daily conduct and aspirations of the average citizen are broadly reflective of the body politic and its progeny, Irish Water.

We moan about traffic and delays but jaywalk, ignore junction boxes and drive in bus lanes. We lament the poor quality of water and the blight on the landscape from turbines and pylons, but allow ugly one-off houses with septic tanks polluting the groundwater. We crib about taxes and young people struggling to buy houses but demand loose credit and resist efficient land-use taxes.

Now we grudgingly accept charges for water but demand allowances and credits for all and sundry and then complain the system is complicated and requires our PPS numbers. After decades ignoring the high salaries and generous pensions of employees in monopolistic semi-State companies, whose unions then demanded slices of company equity, we are suddenly exercised, with a Tea Party-like fervour, by remuneration in this new utility .

I could go on, but I would just ask these newly emerged experts on water treatment and corporate management why they are surprised by any of this? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Writing in the October 9th edition of the London Review of Books, James Meek has this to say about the water supply in the English town of Thanet (the target seat for the Ukip leader Nigel Farage in the British general election in 2015): “Thanet’s water supply and drainage system belong to Southern Water, which is owned by a consortium of Hong Kong investment funds and Australian and Canadian Pension funds, advised by an American and a Swiss merchant bank. Sewage spills by Southern regularly force the closure of Thanet beaches”.

The future for “Irish” Water? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – As part of our bailout conditions, the Government was required to begin charging for water in order to make additional significant contributions towards paying back the loans.

Government spin-doctoring has been trying hard to make us believe that water should be conserved. If we conserve this “product”, the vendors (Irish Water) won’t make any significant profit on what they’re selling, and the company will contribute little towards the loan repayments.

I appeal to all Irish patriots to use as much water as you possibly can to help with performance-related pay, a fancy head office building, new PR consultants to better communicate the spin, high-tech meters and the ongoing maintenance thereof, bill collection, employee pension contributions, Irish Waters’s likely imminent rebranding, etc.

Perhaps then, after the huge running costs are deducted, if there is any profit after the first decades of Irish Water’s existence, some loan repayments will be made. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – The entry into the debate on university entrance criteria in Ireland of the dean of admissions at Harvard University Dr William R Fitzsimmons (October 22nd) illustrates one of the fallacies that dog this debate. Harvard is a private institution with an endowment of more than $36 billion and tuition fees annually of some $40,000. No student has a right of entry to the university – no matter how bright they are. The dean of admissions will have as his goal each year to admit a balanced class of freshman – balanced in terms of intelligence, leadership potential, race, gender, sporting ability – and balanced also in terms of having the potential through family connections or otherwise to increase that $36 billion endowment in the future.

Irish universities have a quite different model for admission. For good or ill, they are governed by a concept of fairness to all citizens of Ireland and that fairness is expressed in terms of the student’s perceived academic ability as measured by the Leaving Certificate examination. In the Irish model, the child of the factory worker is meant to have exactly the same chance of entry as the child of the billionaire property developer, the future poet as the future entrepreneur, if they have the same academic ability. The model may be skewed by extraneous factors – by money and class – but it is a proper model for a democratic republic.

The introduction to the Irish system of a personal essay by a candidate for admission would be a major additional obstacle in the attempt to provide a fair system of admission. Apart from the ability of money to distort the impartiality of such a system through professional assistance in essay writing and essay purchase on the internet, there are no such things as unbiased professional judges for such essays and no acceptable criteria by which they can be judged – other than by academic ability as measured by an unbiased examination such as the Leaving Certificate.

We have an excellent system. Don’t mess with it! – Yours, etc,


Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Sir, – While it is true that the majority of students attending universities such as UCD and TCD with very high Leaving Cert entry requirements come from the middle or higher classes, it is not true to infer that those who attain lower points at Leaving Cert level or those from poorer backgrounds are deprived of third-level education in this country. Indeed the development and expansion of the institutes of technology sector over the past 20 years in particular has accounted for ever increasing numbers of students from working class and poorer backgrounds participating very successfully in third-level education and has provided them with opportunities that were never provided to them by the universities prior to this. Indeed, in a recent survey Tallaght IT came second in terms of the employment rate for its graduates relative to other institutes of technology. Many of these students will tell you that they prefer what they perceive as the more supportive environment provided in this sector in comparison with what they perceive as being provided in the corresponding environment in the university sector. – Yours, etc,


Lecturer in Mathematics,

Institute of Technology,



Sir, – It was much remarked in the late 1990s and early 2000s that there was a direct correlation between the mushrooming in the fee-paying secondary school sector and the abolition of fees at third level in 1995. Fee-paying schools in certain catchment areas grew exponentially as some parents no longer had to put away money to send children to college. It is for this reason that the fee-paying schools cluster in urban areas where there is a university close by.

The fee-paying option is not open to parents in rural areas, and some provincial cities, who still have to pay to accommodate their kids in university cities and towns, which is an ever-increasing burden given rising rents. This is unfair to parents outside the cluster because they are not able to avail of a taxpayer-funded subsidy, which is limited to certain postal addresses in Dublin.

It is also clear that since the universal abolition of university fees, the subvention to fee-paying schools has siphoned funds away from the third-level sector, leaving our universities slipping in the global rankings. It also sets up an uneven playing field between State schools and fee-paying schools in the same catchment area – by siphoning off the cream of the crop, fee-paying schools are degrading State-funded infrastructure. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Sir, – Attempting to right the wrongs of our society by picking on private schools is not only inappropriate but an avoidance of reality.

The reality is that most parents whose children don’t attend private schools wouldn’t want them to. It’s not in the family ethos and, lest we forget, ethos is what we are talking about. Free education is a right and an entitlement that most are happy to avail of; that is, of course, if they can get places for their children, in a sector that successive governments have failed to resource adequately.

Out of approximately 733 secondary schools, 55 are fee paying. Were they to close tomorrow or collectively enter the already overstretched State system, the cost to us the taxpayer would be considerable. Sure, the teachers’ salaries in all schools are paid by the State. That really is an entitlement. However, the State in turn should be delighted that parents are providing additional facilities at no cost to the taxpayer.

For that, should “private” schools be penalised by losing control over their intake?

Is it really necessary to attempt to gain a “popular” advantage by eliminating the ethos of a small minority of schools that have years of tradition behind them, to satisfy some strange notion of equality? – Yours, etc,




Dublin 6.

Sir, – This month we celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Thomas Davis, one of the most attractive figures in the Irish patriotic pantheon. It is strange, however, how many authors have been in error about the date of his birth. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, in his seminal Thomas Davis, The Memoirs of an Irish Patriot 1840-1846, published in 1890, states that Davis was born on October 14th, 1814. This has been repeated by almost all subsequent writers and historians, including the late eminent historian Prof TW Moody, who wrote eloquently on Thomas Davis at the centenary of the death of Davis in 1945 and in 1966 in a public lecture in association with the golden jubilee of the 1916 rising. In 1995 the Australian historian Prof John N Molony wrote a stimulating biography of Davis entitled A Soul Came into Ireland: Thomas Davis, 1814-1845, in which he again gives the date of birth as October 14th, 1814. The curious thing is that Prof Molony’s book has a full-page photograph of the gravestone of Thomas Davis in Mount Jerome cemetery on which is given the correct date of birth – October 24th, 1814. Presumably all who have written on Davis visited at some time his grave in homage to him but failed to notice his proper date of birth.

Until that is the late Prof Helen F Mulvey produced her Thomas Davis and Ireland: A Biographical Study, the finest and most judicious single volume on Davis, in 2003. Prof Mulvey gives the correct date – October 24th, 1814 – and notes that Kevin MacGrath’s article in the Irish Book Lover in June 1952, which gave important facts about the Davis family, had given the correct date. So as a little product of the celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Thomas Davis let us, once and for all, get his birthday right!

There are, of course, many more serious aspects of the bicentenary reflections on Davis than his actual birthday. As Gavan Duffy noted in his final eulogy “the life he led was the greatest lesson” – he remains an inspirational figure because of his unselfish character and his moral courage. As WB Yeats observed in 1914, Davis is “the foremost moral influence on our politics”. John O’Hagan, who knew Davis, writing in 1890, of his “grace of nature and manner” reached for an Italian word to describe his “gentilezza”.

Samuel Ferguson saw the civic virtues taught by Thomas Davis, which he captured in his lines about making Ireland the nation it might be:

“Self-respecting, self-relying, self-advancing,

In union or in severance, free and strong;

And if God grant this, then under God, to Thomas Davis

Let the greater praise belong!” – Yours, etc,


Sir, – Thanks to John McKenna (“The best thing since sliced bread? Ban the sliced pan”, Health + Family, October 21st) for highlighting the nutritional deficiencies of white bread. I am old enough to remember the coarse brown bread we all had to eat during the war years when white flower was in short supply. Eating it took some getting used to.

We were too young to appreciate the health benefits of wholemeal bread, and it is fair to say our poor parents were not up to speed on nutritional information, either. Unknown to us was the fact that after the white flour was extracted from the grain the residue, which contains the wheat germ, was used as animal feed. Nutritionally, the animals were better fed than we were!

Up to the mid-1800s wheat was ground between large stone wheels. These could only produce flour that was not fully white because stonegrinding was unable to remove the germ which contains all the nutrients in the grain. With the advent of steel rollers, white flour came into being. The result was white bread. However, it was more expensive to produce. Only the well-off could afford to buy it and the poor continued to buy the coarse brown variety.

Older readers will remember with fondness the wholemeal small loaf that Bewley’s produced in the 1950s. Two slices from this delicious brown loaf at breakfast kept one satisfied well up to lunchtime. With white bread one is likely to end up full of wind by mid-morning! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Frank Greaney (October 18th) seems to be entirely missing the point of bus lanes – we shouldn’t be using them to help general traffic flow, but to help buses and cyclists avoid that self-same traffic! Bearing in mind the mountains of data to the effect that public transport (and even more so cycling) is good for the environment and quality of living in cities, and that it usually those of more limited means who use public transport, we should be making more efforts to facilitate buses and bicycles in urban areas.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should confess to being, as a student obliged to cycle into the city centre every day, one of Mr Greaney’s “usual suspects”. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 9.

Sir, – Arriving into Dublin Airport this week I noted with some surprise that the automated border control gates (e-gates) being trialled at Dublin Airport are only in use from Monday to Friday and from 9am to 5pm.

Do these gates belong to a public service union? If so, why haven’t they negotiated a lunch break as well? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Further to Gerry Adams’s view of John Redmond (Home News, October 20th), pots and kettles are called to mind when Gerry Adams accuses someone else of being a “man of violence”. – Yours, etc,



Irish Independent:

There was a speech given by an American during his 1946 campaign to be elected for the first time as a congressman. John F Kennedy was 29-years-old then and remains relevant at a time when many are disappointed with our political system. He gave speeches of an elegant quality, the like of which are rarely heard today.

He quoted an earlier American politician and diplomat, John W Davis, when he said: “First, then, make choice of your political party, on grounds that satisfy your reason as best you can, by tradition or by environment or sentiment or impulse if you have not the wit to do better. In any event, make choice.

“Do not wait until you find an aggregation of demi-gods or angels; they are scarce – some people think they are even scarcer than they used to be. Perhaps even you might not feel comfortable in their midst. And do not expect to find a party that has always been right, or wise, or even consistent; that would be scarcer still.

“Independent judgement and opinion is a glorious thing, on no account to be surrendered by any man, but when one seeks companionship on a large scale, he must be content to join with those who agree with him in most things and not to hope to find a company that will agree with him in all things.”

Mr Kennedy led a busy political life from 1946 to his death in 1963 when he was US President. His personal life with its flaws is well known, but not so much is known over here of what a hard-working, serious politician he was. We need inspiration in our times, when there is so much brutal violence in the world and in parts of the Middle-East (where our Irish UN Peacekeeping soldiers are facing more dangerous times). When Mr Kennedy was asked about his legacy, he replied he would like it to be said “he kept the peace”, with regard to the Russian missile crisis in Cuba. That situation required delicate diplomacy and patience.

His times were different, when it was possible to solve intractable political problems with diplomacy. Whereas in our times this is almost impossible, with merciless killings and torture of men, women and children taking place in war-torn countries of the Middle East, with hundreds of thousands fleeing their homes.

Mary Sullivan, College Road, Cork

Time for shock and law in Dail?

Regarding the infantile behaviour leading to the suspension of the Dail yesterday, I wonder would it be possible for those responsible for the Leinster House creche to assist the Ceann Comhairle in the seemingly-impossible task of making TDs keep all of their toys in their prams?

Should this not be feasible, might the Ceann Comhairle then be allowed to run an electrical current through the TDs’ seats to bring them to order should they appear unruly or disruptive?

This would also have the benefit of guaranteeing that our public representatives are both plugged in and switched on.

T G Gavin, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Politics must evolve

Enda Kenny, Gerry Adams and Micheal Martin – maybe unbeknownst to themselves – definitely have something in common.

In terms of their political evolution, vision and judgement, if gauged by the geological time scale, they would comfortably inhabit the Triassic Period when our little island was still solidly part of the continent and fellow dinosaurs roamed freely.

At that time Enda would have been very familiar with all kinds of seismic shifts, due to the initial tectonic movements at the time. The big bonus was that it was definitely the pre Phil Hoganite era and the fault lines of Irish Water were still dormant. In those turbulent times, it was every man for himself and the art of cronyism was only evolving.

Gerry would also have been very happy in the shifting sands of the time, as it was pre-IRA and he wouldn’t be pestered by those pesky journalists about membership of illegal organisations. His howling against the volatile and volcanic elements would have been to little or no avail.

Micheal would be equally contented, as the ghosts of Haughey and the lads were just zygotes making their way in the murky and soupy seas. Thankfully, he was where he was, the economy was safe and the financial wrecking ball of Fianna Fail hadn’t yet been spawned.

Essentially, these three men of uncertain vintage are more suited to a different era, rooted in and suited to the distant past where the ancient art of politics was just that – ancient, more in tune with Neanderthal modes of conduct in a different epoch.

Evolution, in the meantime, has been ruthless in rooting out the weak, the error-prone and the dispensable: their respective parties would do well to consider the serious and seismic consequences of inaction before the next general election.

John Healy, Bishopstown Road, Cork

With so many of our politicians “making mistakes” and “learning lessons” I propose the establishment of a new third-level institute to resolve the problem – The Learning Institute for Mistaken Politicians” (LIMP).

The award would be made by a Tolerant Aware Public (TAP) and would be entitled the Doctorate in Gravitas (DIG). The costs of the new institute would be kept off balance sheet because they would be borne by the consultants to Irish Water and bonus-awarded staff of that same semi-state. There would be no shortage of candidates for enrolment and the teacher-pupil ratio would be acceptable to the Department of Education since there would be no shortage of volunteer lecturers.

This suggestion should “wash” with the public and would “clean up” some problems for the government.

Liam Cooke, Coolock, Dublin 17

Mairia Cahill case

Two issues have arisen lately in this sad series of events in relation to the Mairia Cahill case.

How can Gerry Adams apologise in Leinster House on behalf of the IRA, if he was not a member of said organisation? And how can the Taoiseach ask for a full investigation into how the IRA deal with issues like this, when they are a faceless group? That is simply not possible.

Declan Carty, Sandymount, Dublin 4

Action needed on cyclopaths

Our pavements are no longer safe for walkers and have been taken over by cyclists. A whole generation of cyclists now use the pavements as a right. They are unaware that it is prohibited by law, simply because of the lack of enforcement over many years. Maybe the cycle lanes could be converted into safe walkways?

Harry Mulhern, Kilbarrack, Dublin 13

EU is not our friend

Referring to banking debt (private debt) A Leavy (Letters, October 23) writes: “it was all Irish debt and was, therefore, our responsibility”.

Nonsense. That rational would suggest that if any Irish-owned private business found itself in financial difficulty, and on the verge of bankruptcy, it could then turn to the State (Irish taxpayers) for support. Why have bankruptcy laws at all?

The EU does not have our best interests at heart. It is an affiliation of countries where the large dominates the small. As for the EU countries that underwrote our so-called ‘bailout’ loan? They stand to make billions in profit, all coming from taxes imposed on Irish citizens.

John Bellew, Dunleer, Co Louth

Make mine a large one

Should anyone now ordering a whiskey with water be entitled to a bonus pint?

Tom Gilsenan, Beaumont, Dublin 9

Irish Independent


October 23, 2014

23 October 2014 Leaves

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day sweep the drive

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down duck for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Lynda Bellingham – obituary

Lynda Bellingham was a versatile actress who as the Oxo mum brought ‘man-appeal’ to the business of gravy-making

Lynda Bellingham

Lynda Bellingham

8:44AM BST 20 Oct 2014


Lynda Bellingham, who has died aged 66, became a minor national treasure playing the “Oxo mum” in a series of television commercials that ran for 16 years; in the 1980s she was also cast as Helen Herriott in All Creatures Great and Small.

When the BBC’s popular Saturday night drama series — based on James Herriott’s novels about the ups and downs of life as a rural vet in the Yorkshire Dales — launched in 1978, the part of James’s wife was taken by the actress Carol Drinkwater. But when the series resumed in 1988 after an eight-year break, Lynda Bellingham took over, bringing to the part what one critic called “a slight but unwelcome element of brittleness”, and remaining for the final three series.

But that was nothing compared with the epic 16 years she spent as the wholesome middle-class mother in the Oxo television commercials making gravy as her on-screen family squabbled around her. Chosen from 1,500 hopefuls in 1983, she and her screen family became the successors to Katie, Philip and their children, the original Oxo family who dominated television advertising for a generation.

“No half-respected actor would consider it,” she mused once, “but thank God it hasn’t ruined my career.” In retrospect, she was grateful for the part (“it paid for school fees and a nice house”), and recognised that the mini-dramas played out in the various advertisements had broken new ground as the first soap-style commercials. Certainly, as The Daily Telegraph noted in 1988, creating a warm, human feeling about stock cubes was a triumph of emotionally manipulative copywriting.

While at the height of her fame as Britain’s gravy-boat queen, Lynda Bellingham coped with a personal crisis when her second marriage broke down amid allegations that her husband, Nunzio Peluso, had subjected her to violent outbursts, had held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her, and was stalking her. Finally, in 2000 following their divorce, Peluso was fined £4,000 for harassing her and handed a seven-year restraining order.

The Oxo campaign was showered with industry awards, and adding “man-appeal” to the business of gravy-making made her one of the most recognisable women in Britain. But it was pulled in 1999, when the Oxo makers decided that the idea of a family sitting down to eat together was “just completely outdated”. For her part, Lynda Bellingham felt depressed that family meals had been deemed a thing of the past; on the other hand, she blamed the mumsy image it perpetuated for her not being considered for the part of the man-eating Mrs Robinson in the West End stage version of The Graduate.

The demise of the Oxo campaign signalled a marked change of direction, and she appeared on American television as a brothel-keeper in a drama about Hans Christian Andersen, and on British screens she was seen in bed with Albert Finney in My Uncle Silas, a kind of homage to Finney’s famous 1963 film role in Tom Jones.

Not that she was a stranger to raunchy roles. She was Jimmy Tarbuck’s stooge, a nurse called Norma Snockers (complete with uplift bra), in the 1973 television series Tell Tarby, made her film debut in the lewd Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers (1977), and was the saucy star of Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976), produced by her first husband Greg Smith (she regretted doing both films). More to her liking was the role of Alexandra, the ill-fated wife of Czar Nicholas, which she played in a $12 million Russian epic filmed in Russia called The Last Days of the Romanovs (1997).

Lynda Bellingham and Christopher Timothy in All Creatures Great and Small (BBC)

Lynda Bellingham was born Meredith Lee Hughes on May 31 1948 in Montreal, Canada, to an unmarried teenager called Marjorie Hughes, and adopted by a British family called Bellingham when she was four months old. When her adoptive father, a BOAC pilot, retired from flying to farm at Aston Abbotts near Aylesbury, she attended Aylesbury High School for girls. She appeared in several school plays and performed at a local Shakespeare festival as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 1966 she enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

Television fame arrived in 1971 when she appeared in General Hospital. As the Oxo campaign became part of the national landscape she sought some variety by starring with James Bolam in the decidedly adult ITV sitcom Second Thoughts (1991), and then as Faith in the spin-off hit comedy series Faith in the Future (1995-8), with Julia Sawalha playing her grown-up daughter, which won the British Comedy Award for an ITV show in 1997.

In 1994 she was cast as the soft-hearted Mrs Lupin in the BBC’s adaptation of Martin Chuzzlewit, and in 2000 she starred in the women’s drama At Home With The Braithwaites. A stint on The Bill as the evil Irene Radford in 2004 was followed between 2007 and 2011 by regular appearances as a panellist on ITV’s lunchtime chat show Loose Women.

On the stage she made an early appearance as a tart in Norman, Is That You? (Phoenix, 1975) starring the comedian Harry Worth, and in 1981 was Richard’s Queen in Robin Lefevre’s production of Richard II at the Young Vic. Feminists protested outside the theatre when she played a seasoned striptease artiste in Peter Terson’s Strippers (Phoenix, 1985), although she was the only woman cast member not required to shed any clothes.

She starred with David Jason in Look No Hands (Strand) and with Janet Suzman and Maureen Lipman in The Sisters Rosensweig (Old Vic, 1994). More recently her stage work included Losing Louis with Alison Steadman and Sugar Mummies at the Royal Court. She counted her starring role in Calendar Girls on a national tour (2008-09) and in the West End as one of her greatest triumphs.

In 2002 Lynda Bellingham endured another personal drama when her home in north London was firebombed as she slept by a former tenant, whom she believed was mentally disturbed, and who subsequently killed himself. In 2013 she announced she had been diagnosed with colon cancer, and the following year revealed it had spread to her lungs and liver. In August 2014 she decided to end her chemotherapy treatment, but hoped she would survive to see her final Christmas.

She published a volume of memoirs, Lost and Found, in 2010 and a second, There’s Something I’ve Been Dying to Tell You, in 2014. An accomplished cook, she confessed to always using Oxo in her gravy, but revealed that her secret was to add half a pint of sherry. She was appointed OBE in 2014.

Lynda Bellingham’s first marriage in 1975, to the Confessions film producer Greg Smith, lasted only a year. With her second husband, Nunzio Peluso, whom she married in 1981, she opened an Italian restaurant in Muswell Hill, north London, and had two sons. The marriage was dissolved after 15 years, and although she said she would never marry again, on her 60th birthday, in 2008, she married her third husband, Michael Pattemore. He and her two sons survive her.


Anonymous prisoners in their cell Anonymous prisoners in their cell. ‘Despite the rhetoric of our leaders, the purpose of prison is to deter those rational enough to be deterred.’ Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

Thank you for reporting the rising rate of prison suicides as an issue of important concern (‘Terrible toll’ of prison suicides, 22 October). One practical suggestion that might ease the problem would be to extend the responsibilities of “listeners” in our jails so that they also become “watchers”. Establishments have a group of inmates, trained by the charity Samaritans, to listen to the anxieties of fellow prisoners who might be potential suicides. These listeners, who often work closely with wing officers, are widely credited with preventing some self-inflicted deaths which might otherwise occur. Prison staff, in my experience as a former listener, work hard to minimise suicides. They hold a list of high-risk self-harmers or worse. Those on it are kept under observation by officers using the peepholes in cell doors.

The cut in prison staff numbers by 10,000 over the past three years may mean that some officers reduce the frequency of their observation of high-risk inmates. So it would be a good idea to utilise the services of the existing listeners to support the efforts of prison officers in keeping watch over potentially suicidal inmates in their cells. A policy of giving such extra responsibilities to trusted prisoners would be in accord with the government’s approach of using offenders in the field of rehabilitation. Such a move would need an amendment to the Prison Service Instructions rulebook, but it would surely be a well-supported initiative to help prevent prison suicides.
Jonathan Aitken

• As someone who worked for over 30 years in the probation service, I cannot help but associate the raised rate of suicides in prisons in England and Wales with the removal of probation staff from prisons. Until a few years ago, all adult prisons had a team of probation staff who could play an important role in liaising between an individual prisoner and his or her family through their probation colleagues in the prisoner’s home area. They also understood the prison system, could work with prison officers on the wings, with medical staff and with governors, and could alert them to risk where vulnerable prisoners were concerned. The safety of prisoners at risk of suicide was ultimately down to the vigilance of prison staff, but probation staff could perform a vital liaison function. With cuts to prison budgets, probation staff have all but disappeared from prisons, and nothing comparable has replaced them as far as I am aware, and, of course, the probation service itself has been scandalously dismantled by the government.

Ever since John Major told us in the 1990s that “we must condemn a little more, and understand a little less”, there as been a gradual move away from the consideration of offenders’ welfare, and from that it is a short step to considering that their lives are somehow less important. One result of that is the indefensible level of suicides in our prisons that you have reported.
David Atkinson
Wimborne Minster, Dorset

• It is with utter dismay and extreme apprehension for the future justice system in Britain that we have to watch this government ignore the increasing suicide rate in Britain’s prisons (Exposed: suicide crisis gripping the prison system, 18 October). We are advised by Andrew Selous that as minister for justice he will listen to the prisons and probation ombudsman and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. I would feel heartened with such a comment if it wasn’t for the fact that the PPO and HMIP are agencies of the Ministry of Justice and most likely will have to face another round of cuts this year.

Then there is the report that makes it plain that the secretary of state is going to defy an appeal court judgment and let staff use force to restrain teenage inmates (Grayling to let staff use force at ‘super-jail’ for children, 17 October). Not only is this government defying the appeal court but it is also defying the European court of human rights by denying prisoners the vote. So excuse me if I state I have no faith in what the justice minister promises as this government has made it clear that it wants to abolish the Human Rights Act and most likely doesn’t believe that prisoners or teenagers in custody should be entitled to any rights.

This is the downward slope to an undemocratic even autocratic state.
Phil Cosgrove
Public and Commercial Services Union (Ministry of Justice)

• It is disgraceful that the government plans to spend £85m building a new unit to incarcerate children. Although a minister has described it as “a far cry from the traditional environment of bars on windows”, it is difficult to believe this when the building plans are based on those for a young offender institute (YOI) previously planned for the site, and when the proposed rules include the use of adjudications and physical force for the purposes of good order and discipline, measures taken directly from the rules for YOIs. We are told that this establishment will provide a high-quality education, although neither the content nor quality of this can be judged as detail is not included in the bill now before parliament. But to expect any custodial institution, however good the education provision, to address the complex needs and entrenched behaviours of these children within the average 80-day sentence period is completely unrealistic.

At a time of constrained finances, and when the number of children in custody is reducing, any extra money should be invested in well-evidenced interventions that are more likely to work. Funding the construction of a new custodial facility for children is an expensive experiment that is almost certainly doomed to failure. There is no evidence to support the assertion that outcomes will be improved; on the contrary, all the available evidence suggests that placing children in large establishments, miles away from their home community will undermine efforts to reintegrate them successfully into society on their release.
Pam Hibbert
Chair of trustees, National Association for Youth Justice

• Chris Grayling’s determination to give custody officers the power to use force on children to make them follow orders is even worse than you indicate. It is true that this flouts an appeal court judgment that such restraint would risk breaching a child’s right to protection from inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. But we should also remember the high court ruling in 2012 that secure training centres had been sites of “widespread unlawful restraint” for at least their first 10 years. There would have been hundreds of child injuries, not “several” as you report. Two children died after being restrained: 15-year-old Gareth Myatt and 14-year-old Adam Rickwood, who killed himself after being restrained. The government says it will ban officers from inflicting severe pain on children to get them to follow orders, yet we know that situations can quickly escalate.

If ministers can’t find it in their hearts to ditch these brutal plans in memory of Gareth and Adam, and the many other children who have suffered abuse in prisons, why not show some consistency? Staff in secure children’s homes, which also house young offenders, are prohibited from using force to secure compliance and are never allowed to deliberately hurt the children they look after.
Carolyne Willow

• Despite the rhetoric of our leaders, the purpose of prison is not to make vindictive voters feel better nor to warehouse out of sight and out of mind those whose mental health is disrupted. It is to deter those rational enough to be deterred, and to rehabilitate those capable of redemption. The ever-growing recourse to profit-driven firms to provide prisons is diametrically opposed to the provision of reform and rehabilitation in prisons. Returns on investment are boosted by overcrowding and understaffing. Underpaid and undertrained staff are understandably under-motivated when it comes to the extra effort required to turn troubled inmates into citizens who’ll go straight on release.

But these inadequacies in the system also result in punishments far in excess of those handed down by the courts, determined by the psychological frailty of those jailed and by the capabilities and motivation of the jailers. The result is the growing number of prisoners rendered beyond any return to a constructive contribution to society by death at their own despairing hands. Harsh, privately-run prison regimes are a fraud perpetrated on the victims of crime.
Mary Pimm and Nik Wood

• The rising numbers of suicides in England’s prisons puts the lie to any notion that Chris Grayling’s regressive and uncivilised penal policies are defensible. His cuts and regime changes have made the tasks of prison officers immeasurably harder, and the vulnerable, and their families outside, inevitably suffer. But can anyone actually do anything about Grayling’s cruel intransigence, and his continuing denial that his prisons are in crisis? That a man with such indifference to the harm that he does can hold on to public office betrays the kind of political institution Britain has become.
Mike Nellis
Emeritus professor of criminal and community justice, University of Strathclyde

• In reference to your article on the chief inspector of prisons’ annual report (‘Terrible toll’ of prison suicides, 22 October), I thought we had abolished the death penalty.
Peter Waterson
Bishopbriggs, Glasgow 

Refurbished William Morris Gallery preview While the refurbished William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, east London, shown here with Grayson Perry’s Walthamstow tapestry on display, is fully accessible, Temple Newsam is not so good for wheelchair users, says Pauline Eyre. Photograph: Sean Dempsey/PA Archive/Press Association Images

On its UK tour so far, The Vanity of Small Differences, an earlier work by Grayson Perry (Report, 22 October), has appeared on the egalitarian white walls of city centre galleries with no entry cost. At the moment, however, the six tapestries are on show at Temple Newsam House in Yorkshire, a Tudor-Jacobean mansion owned by Leeds city council, one and a half miles from the nearest train station and accessible by bus only in the summer months. Entry to the exhibition is free but contingent on a payment of £4.50 for entrance to the house.

Maybe the decision to take Perry’s epoch-defining exploration of the connections between class and taste to one of Yorkshire’s bastions of high culture was an experiment. I’m willing to be persuaded that Grayson Perry approves of his tapestries jostling for attention in rooms that are stuffed with furniture and decorative objects belonging to assorted lives from long ago. After all, that’s what the tapestries are about, isn’t it? So far, so good. I like experiments.

I am less easily persuaded that it was a good idea to house The Vanity of Small Differences in a series of poky bedrooms across two floors of a minor stately home that is unable to offer full access to wheelchairs. To see the first five tapestries, I was required to transfer from my own electric wheelchair to something resembling a witch’s ducking stool in order to be manually dragged backwards up the Grade I-listed staircase. Once at the top, I would transfer to another wheelchair to be pushed round the exhibition by an employee. I turned down the opportunity. I’m used to relinquishing my autonomy when necessary, but I still have some pride. “Well, it’s not for everyone,” said the assistant.

There was a lift to the top floor to see the remaining tapestry, but even here, life was not straightforward. Because fire regulations dictate only one wheelchair up there at a time, I was made to wait till the previous incumbent had had enough. Luckily, he or she didn’t feel the need to watch any of the three 45-minute documentaries which are such an illuminating part of the show (but which are freely available over the internet at 4oD).

The curator, speaking to a large Ilkley literature festival audience in one of the house’s ground-floor state rooms (easily big enough to show most, if not all, of the tapestries), vigorously defended the decision to use rooms with poor access. At least I know my place now. I won’t bother trekking to Temple Newsam to spend my £2-an-hour earnings, then.
Pauline Eyre
Skipton, North Yorkshire

Fans of FC United of Manchester. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

When a pair of tickets for West Ham’s opening game of the season against Tottenham costs the same as a standing season ticket for Bayern Munich, it’s clear that the “customers” (Editorial, 20 October) have gained nothing from the Sky TV revolution that’s put untold billions into dodgy players’ and dodgier owners’ pockets. Not only are we ripped off at every opportunity, we have to put up with kick-offs at ridiculous times to suit armchair and pub audiences.

Premier League football is crying out for a democratic fans’ revolution, but while we wait for the glorious day, uber-capitalist Richard Scudamore and the other suits who run it could at least impose a £25 maximum admission charge for all clubs so that the average fan could more easily afford a match ticket. Such a measure would preserve the competitive advantages of the bigger grounds and would hardly be noticed, given that gate receipts are small beer in comparison to TV revenue. I realise the chances of this happening are on a par with those of my beloved Hammers winning the Champions League, but one thing they can’t take from us is that we can still dream.
Bert Schouwenburg

• Your editorial on football democracy mentioned fans on the board, fan-owned clubs and for fans to have more say in our game. There is a shining example of this and we’re called FC United of Manchester. Far from FC United “being over by Christmas”, as our detractors once prophesied when we were formed in 2005, we move in to our new £6m home soon – £2m towards the cost of the ground was raised by the fans themselves. We are a co-operative, all major decisions are taken by the owners (the fans), we vote not to have a sponsor on the shirt and voted on admission prices and for fans to pay what they can afford for season tickets.

Football is pricing out working-class fans, especially youngsters. It’s now a birthday treat for them to watch their club when it should be a birthright. Fans of all clubs should not let petty rivalries stop them from organising together to take back the their game from the greed merchants, spivs and crooks of the modern game.
Alan Quinn

• Good to see Sunderland fans getting a refund on tickets after their team’s poor performance (Sport, 22 October). Perhaps this idea could be extended and made retrospective. After nearly 40 years’ watching Crystal Palace, I’d be owed a small fortune.
Michael Cunningham

locked computer keyboard Is the civil service preventing staff making their views known? Photograph: Alamy

It is not just in the prison service that constructive dissent is discouraged and punished (Sacking threat to prison whistleblowers, 21 October). A culture where staff are expected to keep their heads down, their mouths shut and to toe the line would seem to permeate the whole of the civil service, even in the most minor matters. My husband has just retired after 40 years’ exemplary service in HMRC. In April he wrote to the Guardian to correct some factual errors on tax and civil servants’ pay in an article by Polly Toynbee. There was no whistleblowing involved, everything he said was already in the public domain. However, HMRC found him guilty of “serious misconduct” for contacting the press without permission and he received a 12-month written warning. As a result he was denied the customary long-service certificate and award when he retired.

It would seem that writing one letter was considered to outweigh 40 years’ service. In such petty ways does the civil service aim to keep its employees on a tight rein. Small wonder that morale among staff is at an all-time low. All my husband’s colleagues said how much they envied him being able to leave the service now.
Name and address supplied

Milburn 'poised for government role' Alan Milburn has delivered a stark warning to the government on how society is poised to become permanently divided. Photograph: Matthew Fearn/PA

The commission on social mobility will be too kind to all the political parties unless it tackles the unrelenting efforts of those in power in both local and national government to force citizens on the lowest incomes into unmanageable debts (Milburn delivers broadside against parties on poverty, 20 October). The recipe is toxic. First, dice incomes in work and unemployment while the prices of food and domestic fuel are escalating. Then chop council tax and housing benefits, leaving the rapidly reducing incomes to pay increasing rents and allow rents to increase. Let councils increase the council taxation of benefits from 8.5% to 20% while freezing it for everyone else. Allow to simmer indefinitely in a flavouring of the prohibitive costs of justice. Then ensure this toxic abuse of power cannot be cleansed by closing the door to judicial review in the criminal justice and courts bill now ending its passage through parliament.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

• The same day that “David Cameron vows to create 3m apprenticeships” (Report, 20 October), repeating George Osborne’s previous impossible pledge to the Tory conference, Alan Milburn’s report on social mobility confirms overall apprentice starts are down and completion rates are falling. PS, they’re not apprenticeships, anyway, but subsidised job placements.
Patrick Ainley
University of Greenwich

• The value of a £140m house in Park Lane has increased by £6m in the past few months (Balls seeks to calm fears in London over mansion tax, 21 October). In the same issue, we read that Alan Milburn recommends that the living wage be implemented by 2025 at the latest (Society on the brink of permanent division, government warned). Says it all really, doesn’t it?
Terry Philpot
Limpsfield Chart, Surrey


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (20 October) is probably right that Russell Brand is a “dilettante”. But he challenges the status quo and stands up for those who are on its sharp end, like the young mothers in Newham. 

So he strikes a chord with tens of thousands of young – and older – people. Does anyone think that a book by Ed Miliband, who can’t even bring himself to support strike action by teachers or nurses, would fly off the shelves like Revolution is doing?

Alibhai-Brown is appalled that Brand won’t vote. Yet we all know that millions will abstain in the general election next year. Why? Because there is nothing to choose between the policies of three, now four, pro-big-business parties.

We need a party for the men and women who aren’t part of the corporate elite, a party for trade unionists, NHS users, pensioners, the low-paid, immigrants and young people who need decent jobs and homes. When there’s a real choice, and a chance to make a difference, you’ll get high turnouts, as we saw in Scotland’s referendum.

Nobody I know is sitting around “awaiting the revolution”. We’re defending services, fighting cuts, striking for a living wage, standing in elections as anti-cuts candidates for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), offering people an alternative. We got 10 per cent in Salford last year. If we had PR we’d have a councillor or two.

Alibhai-Brown’s “institutional overhaul” of Parliament won’t bring them flocking to the polling stations – but a clear stand and a socialist alternative is like a breath of fresh air for the disenfranchised.

Paul Gerrard

Chair, Salford against Cuts, Manchester

Edward Collier (letter, 17 October) asks: “In what parallel universe is it fair that it takes 33,000 votes to return one Labour MP and 120,000 for a Lib Dem and 285,000 for a Green?” It was the system that delivers this inequity that a large majority of people actually voted for in a referendum.

I personally regret that decision, but I accept that it is the democratic will of our people, expressed in a referendum where every vote was equal.

Pete Rowberry

Saxmundham, Suffolk


Freudian slip raises a real question

There is something desperate about Ed Miliband’s outrage over Lord Freud’s case of foot-in-mouth.

He must know that this is not an issue that can be just harrumphed away. As a society, we have to look at the situation honestly. Nobody should be discriminated against, but if we want disabled people to participate in economic activity, we have to recognise that they cannot make the same contribution as an able-bodied person. It’s a big ask to expect an employer to take on a disabled person at the same wage as an able-bodied person.

The solution is for the welfare system to make up the difference. Such a policy would be perfectly acceptable to disabled people, and less of a burden on the Treasury than paying a full disability allowance.

What’s astonishing is that the Government doesn’t seem to see that – and David Cameron couldn’t spot a prime opportunity to steal Ed Miliband’s thunder.

Simon Prentis



A huge concern making billions can reasonably be expected to employ a proportion of disabled people at its own expense. A smaller outfit could be damaged by having an employee who, through no fault of their own, was less than optimally productive; in such a case it could be to the benefit of the firm, the disabled employee and society at large for the taxpayer to contribute towards their payment.

That was possibly the point that Lord Freud was trying to make. But he made it badly, and should not be a spokesman for that reason.

He may, however, have done us all a service in raising the issue of “worth”. It could be said that no one is worth more than, say, 20 times the living wage. But many are paid vastly more than that and it is their worth that needs to be challenged.

Susan Alexander

Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

The welfare minister claimed some disabled people are not worth the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour and that he’d think about how those unfortunates who might wish to work for £2 an hour might be helped to do so.

A Freudian slip or another Tory “reform” in the offing? The mindset of this divided old political party – the oldest in Europe – is as revolting as it is revealing towards the end of this parliament, no matter how artfully disguised at the beginning.

They’re out of touch, out of time –and out of here soon if there’s to be any fairness at all about politics.

John Haran

Leigh-on-Sea, Essex


Theatre of the absurd

I warmly applaud Adrian Hamilton’s article on the current theatrical fashion to rewrite or traduce plays that are part of the European classical canon (15 October). However, he omitted to mention the mauling British dramatists have received at such hands.

In a recent National Theatre production of what was claimed to be Marlowe’s Edward II the audience was greeted with a cast dressed in bomber jackets, all smoking furiously and constantly on mobile phones. Scenes were added that are not in the Marlowe text and much that is was omitted.

The nadir of this production, to me, was the scene where Edward’s court celebrated his Pyrrhic victory over the barons by waving plastic swords and dancing the hokey-cokey accompanied by an electric keyboard player on stage.

I certainly do not wish for museum theatre, but production companies must be more honest with theatre-goers. They should announce that this is Ms X’s or Mr Y’s version of Oedipus, Medea or Edward II and omit the names of Sophocles, Euripides or Marlowe from their publicity. But that might not generate the same ticket sales.

Dr Mick Morris

Hamilton, Lanarkshire


For the second time in recent months I have walked out of a London theatre because of a play’s continuous and unnecessary foul language.

Needless to say I was denied a refund of my ticket price. As I bought my ticket at the box office just before the start of the matinee performance I could not have been aware of the vile content.

Have other theatre goers also been caught out like this, and is it not time all prospective audiences were warned about such disgusting content? In future I will check before buying tickets, assuming I ever consider risking attending another London theatre venue.

Adrian Appley

Bromley, Kent


John Walsh is quite right in advocating the abolition of tiresome theatre intervals (16 October). However, I would request one exception – the Royal Opera House.

Much of the seating at this ludicrously expensive venue is unfit for humans (battery chickens spring to mind) and 30 minutes is about all I can bear on the rare occasions that I find myself being “entertained” there.

David Bracey

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire


Now, the three-day passport

Beverley Southgate (letter, 9 October) lavished well-deserved praise on the Passport Office after receiving her passport five working days after applying.

Who can beat this? I applied for my passport renewal on 6 October and received my new one on 9 October – after three working days! My congratulations to both the Passport Office and the Post Office.

Whatever new brooms, prunings or decapitations were necessary to achieve such high standards of public service efficiency, pray that they may soon be mobilised to thin out the dead wood in our NHS.

Ben Marshall

London N11


Housing help for the super-rich

Labour proposes a “mansion tax”. This will tax out middle-class Londoners who bought their houses more than 30 years ago and are now coming into retirement on modest pensions. How will that benefit any housing crisis other than that of the very wealthy wanting central London properties?

When the middle classes got driven out of Manhattan in the 1980s it became a ghetto for the super-rich and a once thriving and diverse cultural scene has been reduced to fighting for the best opera seats and to-be-seen-in restaurants.

Stephane Duckett

London SEII


Ebola or not, we need Heathrow

Nigel Long (letter, 16 October) moves away from a sensible discussion about Ebola to confuse the debate about Heathrow.

It is not airline and airport operator profits driving the need for growth but the long-term interests of current and future generations who will be affected by a decline in our international standing if Heathrow’s hub status is allowed to decline further.

Simon King

Twickenham, Middlese


Sir, The proposal to pay GPs £55 for each new patient diagnosed with dementia beggars belief (report, Oct 22). Diagnosing illness is not an extra service commitment, and introducing financial incentives for a diagnosis sets a dreadful precedent. What about other conditions, cancer for example? The fact that this proposal has been put forward illustrates the gap between the objectives of an honourable profession and a managerial bureaucracy that is intent on its deconstruction.

The reality is that patients do not always want a diagnosis, especially with conditions like dementia. In these circumstances, many individuals, who in the early stage of the disease are coping independently or with family support, do not want a label for their condition. There may be medicines that slow the process, but they are of no interest to an individual who is avoiding the issue, and while they are mentally competent their wishes should be respected. To subject such individuals to tests and scans to prove they have dementia is inhuman, yet that could be the result of this proposal.
John Spivey
Consultant surgeon (Ret’d), Watermillock, Cumbria

Sir, It is essential to promote good health through preventive medical care, rather than just treatment. Enormous credit must go to those GPs and community services that regularly check patients for ageing conditions and recommend preventive measures, such as establishing a lifestyle — including exercise and diet — which is known to limit the onset of dementia.
RKM Sanders, MD
Tewkesbury, Glos

Sir, Having an aged parent with advanced Alzheimer’s, I’m strongly supportive of better and earlier diagnosis of dementia, but I find NHS England’s proposal deeply disturbing. Well-intentioned it may be, but this initiative looks more like an ugly combination of a medical bounty and a deeply flawed PR gimmick.
Paul Connew
St Albans

Sir, When my wife started to have memory problems, our GP referred her to a local psychiatric hospital. A consultant psychiatrist came to our house and tested my wife, which took the best part of an hour. A preliminary diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia was made and later confirmed by other tests. When are GPs going to find time adequately to test patients for dementia?
Peter Woodcock
Wigan, Greater Manchester

Sir,Many GPs have little training in mental health, and until this is rectified it will be best to refer patients who may have dementia to community mental health teams. I assisted with running a memory clinic, so saving the time a GP would take. The screening included a memory test and also a look at how well a person deals with everyday tasks, which was useful for social services to assess the level of help needed. The problems that dementia brings can be eased by close co-operation between the NHS and social services.
Alistair Milner
Retired mental health nurse,
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

Sir, I have more than 40 years’ experience of caring for older people, and understand the importance of early and accurate diagnosis of conditions like dementia. However, the idea that GPs need a financial incentive is ridiculous. That money should instead be spent on training professionals who work with older people to identify the signs of dementia and offer swift support.
Leon Smith
Executive vice president,
Nightingale Hammerson

Sir, I would pay my GP double the £55 fee for him not to tell me I have a crippling disease, for which there is no cure, and for which treatment is forbidden by Nice (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) until it’s too late.
Kate Saunders

Sir, Many GPs would, I’m sure, be happier to see the proposed £55 payment for each diagnosis go instead to the Alzheimer’s Society or a local memory clinic.
Dr Larry Amure, BCHIR
Over, Cambs

Sir, The letter about altering the rules of pub darts (Oct 22) reminded me of a wheeze I used as a youth seeking a free pint. I would challenge any darts player to a game of 301 on the condition that their score was doubled. The impossibility of a win only dawned on some cocksure opponents near the end of a match — and I got my beer.
John Taylor
Potters Bar, Herts

Sir, Professor John Miles says that driverless cars would ease congestion (report, Oct 21) but this claim is flawed. These cars are programmed to stop in the event of danger and once people trust in the technology, pedestrians, cyclists and drivers of ordinary cars will take advantage, thus subverting the rules of the road.

A driverless car at a standstill will stop the traffic behind it, hence it becomes a creator of congestion, not a traffic-flow solution.
Andy Cole
Cleethorpes, Lincs

Sir, Fresh eggs lie horizontally at the bottom of a vessel of cold water (letter, Oct 22) because they contain only a small amount of air. As they age, more air enters through the shell. Eggs that are not completely fresh — but still fine to eat — will tilt upwards. If the egg floats, then it has gone bad.
Kay Bagon
Radlett, Herts

Sir, Catholics are permitted to divorce in certain situations (letter, Oct 21). Code of canon law 1153 states: “A spouse who occasions grievous danger of soul or body to the other or to the children or otherwise makes the common life unduly difficult, provides the other spouse a reason to leave . . .”. Those divorced in such circumstances can receive the sacraments, provided they are not in another relationship.
Dr Owen Gallagher
Glenavy, Co Antrim

The reasons for the increase in appeals against GCSE and A-level marks, and subsequent changes in grades (report, Oct 22) lie both in the examining process itself and the way in which it is overseen. Many scripts are now marked not on paper but online. Markers no longer attend standardisation meetings. Instead, the team leader is a voice on the phone, and the senior examiner a face on a screen. Marking has become a solitary process.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many older, experienced markers have responded to these changes by giving up. A lot of scripts are being marked by last-minute recruits, some of whom will only do it once. Greater volatility in the workforce inevitably leads to greater volatility in the standards of their work.

Stability may be achieved in time; the process would be assisted if the regulatory body Ofqual more obviously understood the process it oversees.
Andy Connell


The pilot experiments with opening GP surgeries seven days a week Photo: Alamy

6:55AM BST 22 Oct 2014


SIR – Many GPs regularly work in the evenings and at weekends and they don’t earn the sums that Roger Strong mentions in his letter.

The £100 an hour figure quoted is an estimate for a small number of practices taking part in the Government’s Challenge Fund pilot that is experimenting with opening GP surgeries seven days a week. The British Medical Association has concerns about this pilot. We do not feel this is a sensible use of limited resources at a time when GP services are struggling to deliver basic care during the week because of rising patient demand, falling resources and a shortage of GPs. We need to address this crisis before we start asking an already overstretched and underfunded service to do more.

Despite being in an election year, we need all policy-makers to develop long-term and sustainable solutions to the problems facing our health service, and not indulge in short-term gimmicks aimed at making headlines.

Dr Richard Vautrey
Deputy Chairman, BMA’s GP Committee
London WC1

Sadistic trolls

SIR – Isabel Hardman (“Most trolls are more to be pitied than hated”) says, based on her personal experience, that most internet trolls are “people who never grew up enough to deal with irritation”.

This conclusion is at odds with a recent study by academics at the universities of Manitoba, Winnipeg and British Columbia, which found that, of all personality traits, it was sadism which showed the most robust associations with trolling. The authors of the study concluded that cyber-trolling was an internet manifestation of everyday sadism, and explained that trolls therefore are likely to suffer a dispositional tendency to enjoy hurting others, tending to respond in the affirmative to psychology test statements such as “Hurting people is exciting’’. As sadists troll because they enjoy it, this may explain why, when victims reveal their suffering, this further encourages the trolls.

Isabel Hardman’s advice that the best way of dealing with trolls is to ignore them may, in fact, be correct. Though her advice to send angry trolls a “lovely YouTube animal video” may not be psychologically consistent with the first part of her advice.

Dr Raj Persaud
Royal College of Psychiatrists
London W1

Pheasants are causing havoc on the roads Photo: John MacTavish

6:56AM BST 22 Oct 2014


SIR – I recently had a close “air miss” with a suicidal pheasant while riding my motorbike. It flew across me at chest height when travelling at around 50 miles per hour (me, not the pheasant). I am sure that, had I not instinctively breathed in, it would have ended in tears and feathers.

Nick Edge
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

SIR – I told a local estate manager I had hit three of his pheasants, causing expensive damage to my car. He said he would send me an invoice for the dead birds.

Julia Boardman
Chipping Norton, Oxford

Price and life of milk

SIR – Dairy farmers throughout the country are being forced to sell milk for less than it costs to produce. We often pay more for bottled water than for milk.

Surely if the Government can propose a minimum price for alcohol, then it can do the same for milk and allow farmers to make a reasonable profit.

Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire

SIR – On Tuesday morning I finished off a four-pint container of skimmed milk with a use-by date of September 28. I have suffered no ill effects whatsoever. So much for food safety labelling.

Viv Coffey
Frinton-on-Sea, Essex

Not music to my ears

SIR – My greatest pleasure in listening to Classic FM is not just the film music, the adverts or the travel news, but hearing them trying to pronounce Eugene Onegin.

Geoffrey Hodgson
Leeds, West Yorkshire

Over-familiarity: Kevin Spacey ridicules Jason Bateman in Horrible Bosses

6:57AM BST 22 Oct 2014


SIR – As Steve Baldock and Ruth Huneke demonstrate, different generations have different values regarding how best to address a person. Surely the only social skill required to solve this is listening.

If Steve Baldock is introduced as “Mr Baldock” or “Steve”, then call him that.

Over-familiarisation and abbreviation should be avoided, and it shouldn’t be assumed that because a woman wears a wedding ring, the surname she gives is her married name.

Lesley-Jane Rogers
Bishopswood, Somerset

SIR – I was once interviewing youngsters for a warehouse job when a lad seated himself in front of me, still wearing a full-face crash helmet.

He had the courtesy to raise the visor, which enabled him to hear my two-word suggestion that he quickly leave my presence.

Chris Mitchell
Houghton on the Hill, Leicestershire

SIR – Mr Baldock should count himself lucky to be addressed by his Christian name by interviewees.

When speaking to potential candidates for a position in my firm, I try not to wince when they call me “mate”. They’re all good tree surgeons, I am sure, but sometimes they lack the courtesy to turn up for the interview.

My recruitment advertisement asks for candidates with “good manners and a sense of humour” – have I been hoist by my own climbing rope?

John Handy
Hamstead Marshall, Berkshire

SIR – Mr Baldock’s letter reminds of the day a new member of staff joined the company I was working for and called the boss “Freddie”.

The boss told him: “My best friends call me ‘Freddie’, my staff call me ‘Mister’, others call me ‘Sir’. You may call me ‘God’.”

David Horchover
Eastcote, Middlesex

On a roll: Nicole Cooke celebrates her win at the Road World Championships in Italy, 2008 Photo: Getty Images

6:58AM BST 22 Oct 2014


SIR – In last week’s Pub Quiz, Gavin Fuller states that Tommy Simpson was the first British cyclist to be world Road Race champion in 1965, and asks who the second was, in 2011 (the intended answer being Mark Cavendish).

In fact, the first British Road Race champion was the marvellous Beryl Burton, in 1960, a full five years before Tommy Simpson.

And the third British win? Beryl Burton again, in 1967. So does that make Mark Cavendish the fourth British winner? Of course not, that would be Nicole Cooke in 2008, relegating Cavendish to fifth place in the list of British champions.

Gill Taylor
Riddlesden, West Yorkshire

Taking the lead: it is one thing to lead a party, but quite another to lead the country Photo: AFP/GETTY

6:59AM BST 22 Oct 2014


SIR – Ahead of next year’s general election, vote-catching policies are being generated in response to policies put out the day before by rival parties. Yet, ultimately, the choice of voters will be centred around the leadership potential of individuals – a worrying thought.

Far too little attention is given to the contrasting skills required for a party leader and a prime minister. It is one thing to come up with a manifesto and sell it to the party faithful and the swing voter; it is quite another to demonstrate capabilities of statesmanship on a national or world stage, negotiating with those of opposing views and reaching compromises.

Credibility, presence, gravitas, diplomacy and common sense must prevail over party politics if progress is to be made and the country is to rally behind. Do all of our prospective leaders meet these criteria?

Let us hope that after the dust settles in 2015 we will have a prime minister who can lead the nation and not just their party.

Dave Alderson
Winchester, Hampshire

Youthful congregation

SIR – At a conference of our parochial church council, all three churches listed “attracting young people” as an aim. I mentioned that a church I know of holds a service on Sunday afternoons to encourage families whose children are involved in Sunday-morning sport to attend.

I was told that it is “tradition” to hold services at 10.30 or 11am. Unless churches look for ways to attract younger people, even it if means dispensing with tradition, our congregations will indeed wither away.

Alice Fowles
Surbiton, Surrey

Outgoing European Commission President Barroso addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg Photo: Reuters

7:00AM BST 22 Oct 2014


SIR – Authority to make your own laws, control your own currency and control your borders must be cornerstones of a sovereign nation, along with the possibility of changing a government which is out of kilter with the electorate. So how can José Manuel Barroso, the outgoing European Commission president, speak of a union of sovereign nations when none of these properties apply to most member states?

The end point of an “ever-closer union” is a single country with a single currency, no internal border restrictions and one in which all laws will be made, or subject to approval, by Brussels.

C B Rosenberg
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – Mr Barroso says that “migration has been good for Britain”, which is an over-simplification. It fails to address the shoals of foreigners who sit on the streets of Britain’s cities begging, or the stress upon our health service and infrastructure, which must cope with housing millions of extra people.

Britain does need immigrants, but only those who contribute.

My friends in the oil business travel overseas to work and then return home after paying whatever taxes they are required to stump up where they work. EU and non-EU workers similarly should be allowed to work here, pay National Insurance, just as we do, and then return home when they have completed their contracts.

Andrew H N Gray

SIR – I would like to disagree with the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchard, who claims that Britain should provide more funding to support a Sangatte-style centre, arguing that the migrants are only in Calais because they want to settle in the UK.

The main problem is the EU’s Schengen policy, which was created to facilitate movement of nationals from member states, not sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran. With great foresight, we opted out. If France had done the same, she could refuse entry at her borders and not blame us for being the modern “promised land”.

We are, I believe, the second-most-crowded country in Europe, and cannot absorb more people.

Eunice Phipps
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

SIR – I keep hearing that the free movement of peoples is a cornerstone of the EU project.

If a cornerstone is faulty, and threatens the integrity of a structure, it needs to be replaced or the structure will collapse.

Arnold Kingston
Four Elms, Kent

SIR – Populism must be firmly resisted or we shall end up with democracy.

Hugh Davy
Thames Ditton, Surrey

Diagnosis: many think the proposed payment would create a conflct of interest

4:49PM BST 22 Oct 2014


SIR – A spokesman for NHS England describes the unnecessary proposal that GPs be paid £55 for each dementia diagnosis as “an investment”. To put this money into the pockets of professionals who are paid well to perform a service which should already be part of their remit, at a time when other areas of the health service appear to be under great strain, is bizarre to say the least.

Trying to dignify this action by calling it an investment does a disservice both to GPs and their patients, who will trust their doctors less. It also exposes the management of NHS England to ridicule and the taxpayer to the distressing prospect of being made complicit in the corruption of what we once took pride in calling a family doctor service.

Pat Othen
Penketh, Cheshire

SIR – When I was admitted to an NHS hospital last April, I was asked 10 questions to determine if I had dementia. It took less than five minutes.

Therefore, if any payment should be considered necessary, surely a GP should get only, say, £10 per diagnosis, rather than the proposed £55.

Dr Michael Irwin
Cranleigh, Surrey

SIR – Surely the “diagnosis” money offered to GPs would be better spent on specialist training for staff in dementia care homes, or support for those who care for people with dementia in their own homes.

Esther Chamberlain
Preston Crowmarsh, Oxfordshire

SIR – Paying doctors for dementia diagnoses runs the risk of aping dental policy in the Sixties, when Australian dentists were tempted to Britain with payments per filling (£1, I think).

The resulting carnage in the mouths of adults and children became known as “Aussie trench” and funded some superb dental surgeries back in Australia.

Damien McCrystal
London W14

SIR – Can we now expect teachers to be paid for marking books and police to be paid for arresting people?

Carol Forshaw
Bolton, Lancashire

SIR – Is it not enough we have to bribe our bankers to do their jobs? Now GPs, too?

Elizabeth Sharp
Faversham, Kent

SIR – Only 2,727 patients with dementia would be required to purchase one Bentley.

Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent

SIR – If I self-diagnose, and my GP confirms it, do I get the 55 quid or does he?

Gordon Garment
Chipping, Lancashire

Irish Times:

Sir, – It has been interesting to see a host of academics venting spleen about the fee-paying primary and secondary education sectors in your letters pages over the last few weeks. This was made all the more interesting by the fact they were proceeded by a host of academics venting spleen in the wider media about the lack of fees in the university sector. It seems that what is bad for the goose is highly desired by the gander. – Yours, etc,


Foxrock, Dublin 18.

Sir, – I become incredibly frustrated when I read articles such as the one written by Ciaran O’Neill when he writes about low-income families subsidising education they cannot “hope to bestow” on their children (“Paying for privilege”, Education Analysis, October 24th).

No-one disputes that every child has the right to a state-funded education. In fee-paying schools the parents subsidise additional facilities out of their own net income. The fees parents pay include costs such as light, heat, repairs, etc, costs normally incurred by the state in non-fee-paying schools. The vast majority of parents make considerable sacrifices to put their children through these schools. The upshot is that it costs the state less to educate a child through a fee-paying school than a non-fee-paying school. This is an undisputed fact and why the department will never “open its books” to the public.

I put it to Mr O’Neill that the parents of fee-paying schools are subsidising the taxpayer and not vice versa. If the money given to fee-paying schools were withdrawn, this could only lead to an increase in the school fees. An increase most parents simply could not afford because the vast majority of parents scrimp and save to put their children through these schools. There would also be a massive migration to non-fee-paying schools and the state plainly couldn’t cope. It is therefore ironic that the state is dependent on these schools to remain open as it could not afford for these schools to close. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – I was thrilled to read Ciaran O’Neill’s fascinating analysis of private education in this country.

What I do not understand is why the 93 per cent of the people in this country who have not been and will never be educated privately are not up in arms about the annual subvention of €100 million that goes from our collective pockets into bastions of privilege that only serve to reinforce and strengthen the inequality in our society.

I recently told my sister – who has no children and pays her taxes – that thanks to her taxes the private schools in our catchment area are now in a position to resurface their tennis courts, restring the violins of their orchestras, and pay for a physiotherapist to be pitch-side when the elite children of Ireland line out for their school sport. At first she was astonished and then horrified. She had no idea that the system of education in Ireland is funded in this manner. How many other people out there, who are struggling to pay their mortgages, dreading property tax and marching against water charges, have considered the fact that their taxes are propping up a fundamentally unequal and unjust education system from which they will never benefit and which, by virtue of the very privilege bestowed upon its pupils, will only serve to disadvantage them further? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – I was flabbergasted at the response from Dr William R Fitzsimmons (October 22nd) to the article “Students are guinea pigs in Trinity’s experiment” (Education Opinion, October 14th). The so-called holistic system he speaks of is one that works in theory and may be successful in the United States.

Unfortunately, this is Ireland and alternative methods of entry here can too easily fall victim to the cronyism that has infected this country to the core.

It has been clearly documented that personal statements, entrance examinations (in whatever form they take) and interviews favour students from a higher socio-economic background.

The fact that most of our third-level institutions are grossly underfunded will also put pressure to accept donations of finance that could be used to oil the wheels of alternative entry systems.

Those in Harvard, and similar world-class institutions, with their large endowments and grants, do not have this issue.

The CAO system, which I accept has its faults, is still a fair system that does not and cannot take into account where the student is from, how well they hold a fork or who their daddy or mommy is. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Dr William Fitzsimons, dean of admissions at Harvard, who wrote in defence of TCD’s student admission experiment, was chairman of the 2008 US Commission on the Use of Standardised Tests in Undergraduate Admission.

That commission’s 2008 report states: “Universities may be better served by admission exams more closely related to high school curriculum”. The points system of admission does this.

The report further says that such exams “send a message to students that studying their course material in high school is the way to . . . succeed in a rigorous college curriculum”. The points system sends this message. The commission further states that preparation for non-curricular tests by school pupils “detracts from the most important element of a student’s college preparation – understanding the core subject matter”. The commission also expresses a concern that preparation for non-curricular tests may be more accessible to the affluent.

Eccentric admission experiments by elite institutions rely on the national system to admit those rejected in the experiment. The points system is a national system. TCD’s experiment can never be. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – The claim that future Irish retirees are at risk of not having a State pension is ridiculous (“Warning that retired Irish workers not guaranteed State pension”, October 22nd). It is yet another example of how the financial services sector is allowed free rein to spin all manner of hysterical nonsense in its never-ending lobbying to ensure the government of the day does its bidding.

If every retiree turned 65 on the same day and gave up working on the same day and had no other savings or pension provision, and there were no other people working in the country at the time, then it would be a disaster. But in reality that will never be the case and if it were, then pension would be the least of our worries. Furthermore, the pensions paid to retirees are not lost to the State. The cost from one side of the ledger is recouped on the other side through taxation, spending in local and national economies; even savings from pensions are subject to tax.

In its most recent report, the Australian Centre for Financial Studies, on whose figures the above claims were made, gave one country (Denmark) an A rating but no one is claiming that the pension schemes of all the other countries are about to go bust.

The financial services lobby may have a point that not enough Irish people save sufficiently for their retirement. Such an argument is part of a wider debate where the Government has failed to address Irish living costs so that people have sufficient extra income to save for a pension and in general. It has failed to address why two incomes are needed to service a 35-year mortgage on a small, bland, badly designed and poorly built house or why childcare and travel costs take up so much of a family’s income.

But another problem stems from the excessive charges and penalties applied by Irish product providers, which also prefer to deflect attention from the fact that most annual growth on pension funds is due to the tax relief added to the net premium and not any return generated by the industry. Take out the tax relief and the charges and perhaps attention might finally turn to why investments in Irish financial products provide such a poor return relative to similar investments in other countries.

But that would require breaking the financial conflict of interest between the political system and a financial services lobby that has free and unregulated access to government and a veto over the decision-making process. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf, London.

Sir, – I read and re-read Fr Vincent Twomey’s article (“Synod feeds secular agenda hostile to traditional family”, Opinion & Analysis, October 18th) several times and then it struck me! Think how much confusion would have been avoided if God had placed a few orthodox theologians alongside Jesus Christ, just to keep him on the right path.

They could have enforced a more rigid theology than the simplistic approach adopted by Jesus and his sidekick Paul, who, in his letter to the Corinthians, placed rather too much emphasis on love. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

A chara, – It is a pity that those criticising Fr Twomey (a brilliant and good man) don’t seem to have read Humanae Vitae. To paraphrase Chesterton, the ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult, and left untried. – Is mise,




Tír Chonaill.

Sir, – Dave Kavanagh (October 21st) is somewhat missing the point – if a woman has lived her life with her father’s (or mother’s) surname, then it is also her surname.

Her life, friendships, educational achievements and career will be bound to that identity. That she would uproot herself from these by abruptly taking on her husband’s surname (or indeed, her mother’s maiden name) is certainly an interesting social phenomenon.

Of course people are free to make their own choices in these matters, but it should be a choice and not just a habit. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Further to John McKenna’s “The best thing since sliced bread? Ban the sliced pan” (Health + Family, October 21st), just because white bread is bad for swans, I do not see why the same is true for humans.

I have been eating it for over 60 years and have come to no harm as a result, but, like the swans, I would draw the line at mouldy bread. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – In my unsuccessful attempts to find work experience for transition year, I have noticed something interesting. The places where teenagers spend their money – high street chains, department stores, restaurants, coffee shops and hair salons – provide no work experience for transition-year students, even though the work is unpaid.

It is all left to schools, hospitals, libraries, and some multinational companies like Google to give us a week of work. I am one disillusioned teenager. – Yours, etc,


Raheny, Dublin 5.

Sir, – When I read that Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea (Oireachtas Report, October 22nd) will not be submitting his PPS number to Irish Water because of its response to queries he has made, I must admit that I laughed like a drain. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

Sir, – How come local authority staffs around the country were for many years able to deliver water to our taps without the need of a bonus culture? It’s unsettling to think of our water supply being handed over to the monopoly that is Irish Water, where it now seems “bonuses” will be paid to staff who do not even reach the required performance standard.

What impact is this performance/bonus system going to have on the price charged to consumers now and in the future? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Minister for Finance Noonan tells us water charges will be “modest”. Yet no-one seems to know what “modest” means! People who have signed their Irish water forms have signed a blank cheque.

Furthermore, does Mr Noonan realise that a charge of €188 for call-out for Irish water to fix a pipe (pipes in all probability of ancient provenance) is a full week’s disability benefit for a disabled person? That is not acceptable.

The poorest and most vulnerable cannot either afford “modest” or €188. There is simply nothing left to give. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – In Greek mythology, the hydra was a huge monster with many heads. If one was cut off, two would grow in its place. Perhaps Irish Water should adopt the hydra as its emblem. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Sir, – I have been giving thought to our water bills coming in so soon after all the Christmas expenses! Listening to a radio advert for gift vouchers for a local business, it suddenly hit me – the proverbial bottle of wine or equivalent which we usually take when visiting over the festive season can be dispensed with. Let’s ask Irish Water to issue gift vouchers then we can all bring those instead. That way we’ll be sure the washing-up can be done when we’ve left! – Yours, etc,



Co Sligo.

Sir, – Bonus schemes for staff operate in many companies. They are usually contingent on a number of factors, such as individual performance with regard to meeting goals and the company’s performance with regard to meeting targets. Here’s a target for them – bonuses to be paid only when, if ever, a minimum of 95 per cent of the water in the system is delivered to a consumer. Let the appalling volume of leaked water which is allowed to leak out of the system be brought under control before any bonus is considered.

Targets for bonus-earning usually come under a few headings. One of the main ones is increasing company revenue.

No employee of Irish water can induce us to use more water than we need, given that they cannot supply more than they have available and what is available at present is being over-used.

The next most common criterion for a bonus is increasing the customer base.

This is outside the control of the staff of Irish Water, unless they extend the range of piped water supplies.

We have been told of the levels of bonus that staff members might receive if they meet targets, but we have not been told what those targets will be, nor have we been told who will set and monitor them. It might be interesting to see the finer details. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Is Irish Water a busted flush? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – “Furthermore, the escalation of street politics has its own inherent dangers that should be obvious to all of us on this island.” (Michael Joy, October 22nd). That’s funny; the governor of Hong Kong said the same thing only last week. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – In addition to the anger and disbelief expressed by so many on the general terms of the bonuses for Irish Water executives, there is a further point that needs to be addressed – the extent to which the sliding scale of those bonus payments will benefit most those already doing very well indeed.

Widening inequality has a negative impact on society. Granting 19 per cent bonuses to those at the top and a mere 4 per cent to those at the bottom is a step in the wrong direction. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – Yesterday most households in the New Ross area received two letters from Mick Wallace and Claire Daly, inviting us to a public meeting in a local hotel to oppose water charges. Postage was paid for by the Dáil, ie the taxpayer. Mr Wallace and Ms Daly oppose people paying for water but expect the same people to pay for their postage. Charming. – Yours, etc,


New Ross,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – Most utilities fund the cost of infrastructure maintenance and repair from the standing charge component of their income.

To charge directly for repairs discourages consumers from reporting faults and leakages, which is potentially both dangerous and wasteful. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Drip, drip, drip. When will it ever end? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 11.

Irish Independent:

The man in the pub looked into his glass. The pronouncement that followed showed foreboding and disdain in equal measure.

The Irish soccer team that would that evening oppose the might of the world football champions on Germany’s home turf would be duly humiliated. “Lambs to the slaughter” and “couldn’t kick snow off a rope” were some of the more printable phrases that tripped off his tongue.

John O’Shea’s glorious equaliser in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, was something of a setback to his prophecy. The pundit is slowly recovering from this reversal and is now focusing on Ireland’s next competitive fixture – Scotland in Glasgow.

Here, Ireland will be truly exposed at the back and will lack penetration up front.

I know this to be true because the man in the pub told me.

His glass remains half empty.

Come on Ireland!

Tony Wallace

Longwood, Co Meath


Bonus plan doesn’t hold water

“Slobbering in the water” best describes the debacle that is Irish Water. Even more so, when one considers it cost €180m – most of the spend going to outside consultants – to launch the company.

The obvious first step would be to ensure that the national pipe network was replaced to the point where all water passed from the supply source in an enclosed system is free of all forms of contamination.

Then, similar to the National Electrical Grid and supply sources, private metered connections could be made to every house in the State, guaranteeing a quality product to all. The quality standard is even more serious in the case of water because it is a consumable product on which the health of the nation depends. Only at this point should it be legally possible to price and market the product to the public.

Is this the procedure with Irish Water? Unfortunately, no. Problems with contaminated water having to be boiled for safety and countless undetected underground leaks causing huge losses of water are countrywide. Tens of thousands of water meters are still in the process of being installed.

In these circumstances, isn’t it scandalous to waste time discussing bonuses for its 500 highly paid staff when delivering on water is its prime objective? Senior management are to be paid €9,000 in top-ups, while the harder workers down the line are offered considerably less to meet the same targets.

Irish Water is a semi-state company still in its infancy. Is it right or honest that bonuses should be demanded or paid at this critical stage – wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect all personnel first to prove they are, at least, capable of their tasks?

James Gleeson

Thurles, Co Tipperary


Power lines – go underground

If there is any question about whether the power lines should go over or underground then ask any of the people who have been left without power in recent weeks – in one case for 18 hours.

Most of the power outages were caused by fallen lines.

Eamon Ward

Gorey, Co Wexford


Don’t envy Iceland

Writing from London, Desmond FitzGerald accuses those of us who live in Ireland, and put up with the consequences of the economic calamity that hit this country, of indulging in “myths” and not knowing what we are talking about (Letters, Irish Independent, October 18).

In his letter he says that Ireland “became bankrupt because of deliberate choices made by the ECB”.

He ignores the fact that before the ECB made those “deliberate choices” Ireland’s problems were created by the equally deliberate decisions of a small number of its own most powerful citizens during the boom. In highlighting the “difference” between “sovereign debt” and “private banking debt” he ignores the fact that it was all Irish debt and was, therefore, our responsibility.

When he cites Iceland, he ignores the fact that Iceland had no option but to default, since, according to the experts, its banking debt was six times its GDP and it did not have the backing of the EU and the ECB. He also ignores the fact that, again according to the experts, it devalued its currency by half – which made Icelanders much poorer – its capital controls pushed away investment and its mass mortgage write-offs ensured that savers lost their money.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13


Irish Water: the solution

I think I have it solved – the whole Irish Water thing!

Rather than extending the time that people can avoid an extra charge that some might say makes a mockery of equality, why doesn’t Irish Water allow those who won’t or can’t pay/register/apply (who, don’t forget, are citizens who previously owned this precious resource) to do community service, like the bankers who were found guilty after an extremely expensive legal case?

Maybe watering the flowers in Stephen’s Green or giving water to the animals in Dublin Zoo , or even pulling pints in the Dail bar – where it was reported some politicians found it quite difficult to settle their bills – could be forced as penalties upon the thousands who marched against water charges?

Perhaps those on this community service could check reservoirs as an early warning system for hosepipe bans in case we get an unusually dry and sunny summer. We might – oh, sorry I used “we” there, I thought I was in a democracy for a second.

Dermot Ryan

Athenry, Co Galway


Moral vacuum on rising rents

News of the increase in house prices (Irish Independent, October 20) will be cold comfort to the rising number of working people falling into homelessness due to unaffordable rents in Dublin. The Government and the media appear to be united in refusing to entertain a discussion of rent controls – perhaps many of them are landlords?

In the moral vacuum of our neoliberal, free market economy, more and more people are inevitably becoming consigned to what critic Henry Giroux calls “zones of abandonment and social death, where they become unknowables, with no human rights and no one accountable for their condition”.

The logic of a profit-driven system dictates that the cost of socio-economic protections is unjustifiable, but it also means that we have failed in our collective civic responsibility to our fellow citizens.

Maeve Halpin

Ranelagh, Dublin 6


Taxing the web

I laughed out loud at your article headlined ‘Hungary plans tax on internet use’ (Irish Independent, October 22).

I’ve never Googled as much in my life as I have with the search term “water charges”.

If Enda Inc were to introduce the web tax, I may as well move to Budapest and be done with it all!

Fiona Purcell

Drogheda, Co Louth


Sex is God’s creation

It is the job of the Catholic Church’s government to discern, here and now, what Christ is saying to humanity – and, most importantly, what He is not saying.

Since the day of his election, Pope Francis has been trying to get this across to us all, especially to the recent synod.

For example, traditional church teaching on sex is still tainted by the negativity of St Augustine, because of his own formal life-style. Sex is a positive entity, the mainspring of God’s ongoing creation. Sex is good, precious and beautiful. The church must rescue sex from the filth of this age, not frown on it as part of the problem.

Why are women still excluded from having any real say or meaningful role in church governance? Why does the church still impose compulsory celibacy on all clergy? Does the Vatican know, or care, what ordinary lay people think on these and similar subjects?

Sean McElgunn

Address with Editor

Irish Independent


October 22, 2014

22 October 2014 Caroline

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day off to get my feet rub by Caroline

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


The 11th Duke of Marlborough was the custodian of Blenheim Palace and preserved Vanbrugh’s baroque masterpiece for future generations

The Duke of Marlborough

The Duke of Marlborough Photo: JOHN LAWRENCE

5:54PM BST 16 Oct 2014


The 11th Duke of Marlborough, who has died aged 88, devoted his life to preserving his family seat of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, for the benefit of future generations.

After inheriting the dukedom on the death of his father in 1972, the Duke applied his shrewd commercial flair to the business of pulling in the crowds, introducing regular opening hours, tea rooms, boat trips, as well as a gift shop, maze and butterfly house.

In what he described as “the ongoing battle of Blenheim”, he let out the house for corporate entertaining and the grounds for pop concerts, and even went so far as to open the family’s private apartments to the public.

He introduced proper accounts, insisting that every part of the business should be self-financing, and founded the Blenheim international horse trials, which have become a popular annual event.

Blenheim Palace owes its name to Blindheim, in Austria, where on August 13 1704 John Churchill, who had been created Duke of Marlborough in 1702, held back King Louis XIV’s troops and saved Vienna from a French attack.

To show her gratitude, Queen Anne presented the Duke with the royal manor of Woodstock in Oxfordshire and promised that a palace would be built for him in the grounds to be paid for by the Crown.

The baroque masterpiece that was created by Sir John Vanbrugh is a vast, triumphalist celebration of military victory. The Grinling Gibbons pinnacles show Marlborough’s coronet crushing the fleur-de-lis; the rooftop lions are biting into French cockerels; and there is a captured bust of Louis XIV in the centre of the south front.

The original layout of the trees in the park even mimicked Marlborough’s battle lines, though the grounds were redesigned under the 4th Duke by Capability Brown.

Yet even Queen Anne did not anticipate the grandeur and huge expense of Blenheim, and the house went on to become a financial burden to the Dukes of Marlborough for more than 300 years. The huge expense of maintaining the house often tempted them to desperate stratagems that did little for their reputation — or happiness. Gladstone famously remarked: “There never was a Churchill from John of Marlborough that had either morals or principles”.

In recent generations, the “wicked” 8th Duke had sold off many of Blenheim’s treasures to pay for the Palace’s upkeep; the 9th Duke sold himself to the American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt, in one of the most unhappy and blatantly arranged marriages in history. Their son, the 10th Duke, was once described by Auberon Waugh as “one of the most richly absurd characters the English aristocracy ever produced, famous for his appalling rudeness, amazing tactlessness and quite extraordinary greed”.

Yet despite their efforts, when the 11th Duke inherited the titles and estates, the Palace and park were in a poor state and he was forced to surrender the Blenheim archives to meet death duties.

The Duke of Marlborough in his study at Blenheim (JOHN LAWRENCE)

“It would be wrong to say,” he observed, “that I was longing to inherit because that would suggest I wanted my father to die, but there were certain things that couldn’t be done while he was alive.”

The 11th Duke’s achievement was in succeeding where so many of his ancestors had failed: in maintaining and improving his estate without compromising his principles or reputation. It was, the Duke said, his dearest wish “to ensure that my heir finds the place in the best possible state of repair and the estate in good order.”

It was a gruelling, uphill battle. Repainting the interiors took seven years, and rewiring took another seven. In 2009 the Duke had to spend £1 million to rebuild the Blenheim Dam and its adjoining cascade, created by “Capability” Brown, to comply with a law requiring that such structures be able to withstand a one-in-10,000-years flood

The Duke’s first two marriages had ended in divorce, and his heir, James, Marquess of Blandford, his eldest surviving son by his first marriage, was deemed for many years to be unsuitable to assume responsibility for the estate. A troubled man with a drugs problem, the Marquess clocked up a string of convictions for burglary, assault, and drugs and driving offences.

In 1994 the Duke and the trustees of the estate obtained a High Court order preventing Lord Blandford from having any management powers over the estate after the Duke’s death. A new trust was established that would oversee the estate’s assets after the Duke’s death, and then pass control to the Marquess’s son, George, when he succeeded. But in 2012, after the Marquess was reported to have been drug-free for five years, the Duke told a television documentary that he would inherit not just the title, but would also be given an executive role in the running of Blenheim Palace — although, like the Duke himself, he would be answerable to the trustees .

The Marquess had often blamed his father for his problems and, partly as a result, the debonair 6ft 5in Duke was sometimes described by profile writers as being remote, formal and stuffy. But the American author Bill Bryson found him “a charming man”, and other interviewers were often surprised to find themselves won over by his sense of humour and warm chuckle. His workforce at Blenheim regarded him as a benign if exacting employer; in 1989 he announced that he would be paying the poll taxes of workers and tenants on his estate.

John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill was born on April 13 1926, the elder son of the 10th Duke of Marlborough by his first marriage to Mary Cadogan, daughter of Viscount Chelsea. His father’s cousin, Winston Churchill, himself born at Blenheim, was one of his godparents.

After Eton, the young Lord Blandford, as he then was, joined the Life Guards, from which he retired in the rank of captain in 1952. Thereafter he involved himself in the management of Blenheim, particularly in the public opening of the Palace.

While his father was still alive, he lived five miles away at Lee Place, a country house which he kept on after becoming duke as a retreat for the family during the busy summer opening season. During the 1950s he served as a councillor on Oxfordshire County Council and became a magistrate.

Having inherited the Marlborough peerages in 1972, the Duke took his seat in the House of Lords and in his maiden speech the next year drew attention to the damage caused to sheep flocks by badgers. After that, he contributed only occasionally to debates, though he was for many years a member of the House of Lords bridge team. He lost his seat in the Lords when Labour banished all but 92 of the hereditary peers in 1999.

The Duke was chairman of Martini Rossi from 1979 to 1996 and president of the Thames and Chilterns Tourist Board from 1974. He also served as president of the Oxfordshire Association for Young People and of the Oxfordshire branch of the Country Landowners’ Association. He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Oxfordshire in 1974.

He was a first-class shot and a good horseman, riding hard to hounds with the Heythrop. He was president of the Sports Aid Foundation (South Eastern Area) and of Oxford United Football Club in 1955. In 1959 he was honorary vice-president of the Football Association.

The Duke’s first wife, whom he married in 1951, was Susan Hornby, daughter of the deputy chairman of WH Smith. They had a daughter and two sons, the eldest of whom died aged two. When, shortly afterwards, his wife left him for another man, the Duke gained custody of their children; they divorced in 1961.

Tina Livanos, the former wife of the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, became the Duke’s second wife in 1961. She left him to marry Stavros Niarchos, who had previously been married to her sister. She and the Duke divorced in 1971.

The Duke married thirdly, in 1972, Rosita Douglas, the daughter of a Swedish count and ambassador to the United States. With her, he had another daughter and two sons, the eldest of whom died in infancy. The marriage was dissolved in 2008, and in the same year he married Lily Mahtani — her father, Narinder Sahni, has been a top executive with the Hinduja Group.

The Duke is succeeded to the Marlborough titles by his eldest son James, Marquess of Blandford, who was born in 1955.

The 11th Duke of Marlborough, born April 13 1926, died October 16 2014


George Osborne ‘While George Osborne scrabbles around the empty economic policies cupboard for pre-election sweeteners, it is time for everyone else to realise the patently obvious fact that you cannot have true economic growth if you keep reducing people’s pay.’ Photograph: Christopher Thomond for The Guardian

Ha-Joon Chang powerfully argues the case that it was “an economic fairytale” which “led Britain to stagnation” (Opinion, 20 October). It may be added that our universities bear a heavy responsibility for this situation. Certainly, it cannot be denied that the fairytale paradigm (“supply-and-demand”, competition in the market, and all the rest of it) can be applied to any economic issue. The point, however, is that the currently dominant adherents of this approach deny that any other approach can even claim to be economics at all; indeed, adherents of other schools of thought have very largely been purged from our university economics departments.

Proponents of the fairytale justify this stranglehold by claiming that all former insights into the economy that have stood the test of time have now been incorporated into their own – narrowly quantitative – “modelling” framework: thus, Keynes’s discussions of uncertainty are reduced to “models” of expectations, Hayek’s alternative to neoclassicism into models of “price messages”, Marx’s heritage into models of inequality, Ricardo’s into “rent-seeking”, and so on. Consequently, so the argument goes, there is no longer any basis for the claim that there are different schools of thought in economics. There is only one.

It is the inflexible grip of this intolerant orthodoxy on university economics departments which has so signally distanced academic economics from engagement in discussion and debate outside the academic arena, much of which is directed towards questioning its fairytales. It is, by the same token, very encouraging that students who reject their approach have in the past year or more been reintroducing into university economics departments the kind of vibrant debate which ought to lie at the heart of academic life.
Dr Hugh Goodacre
Member of the academic board, University College London

• Ha-Joon Chang’s lucid analysis of the coalition’s economic record missed one crucial ingredient: the role of the banks in using public debt to facilitate a putative recovery. Armed with £375bn of artificial credit funded by the quantitative easing policy, banks ignored the real economy and lent 80% of it to speculators and homebuyers, with little heed of the 2008 crash in financial markets which we were assured must not happen again. This vast increase in the money supply will never be repaid even though legally it is a loan by the central bank, and ends up added to the national debt, but this appears not to bother George Osborne. So there is a massive contradiction in the government’s fiscal and monetary policies, such as they are. Another obvious anomaly in the welter of official statistics, some quoted by Ha-Joon Chang, is that of the claimed 1.8m new jobs “created” over four years, 75% are part-time and at low wages; if true, this merely fuels the Ukip narrative that jobs are being taken mainly by “foreigners”, since official unemployment was 2.6m when the coalition took office and has only come down by 600,000 in four years, implying that at least 1m new jobs have not dented official jobless numbers. Furthermore, the official figures are always quoted before offsetting job losses over the same period, so are misleading.

The real tragedy for the public is that the most neoliberal Tory government in 70 years has deliberately eschewed macroeconomic stimulus in favour of a very short-term political strategy aimed squarely at those most likely to vote Conservative and abandoning the rest to “market forces”. I suspect that when the next Labour government examines the books it will discover more than just a few holes and almost certainly that “there is no more money left”, since taxes are falling despite a recovery, suggesting that the GDP figures are highly dubious.
Adrian Berridge

• The two Eds might usefully consider producing a short script, based on Ha-Joon Chang’s piece, for all Labour spokespersons to use from now on to rebut the tendentious assertions by coalition ministers, MPs and their economic policy groupies and fellow travellers about how Labour “crashed the economy” and how in spite of that they are bringing about a marvellous economic renaissance.
Suzanna Hopwood

• Is it really “the unending economic crisis” that “makes us feel powerless” (Paul Mason, G2, 20 October), or the persistent failure by those in power to act in the interests of ordinary people? To blame the economic crisis is to accept the current dogma of mainstream politicians and the elite, who like us to think that we are all in the same boat, with the same worries. But their interests – in high property prices, regressive taxes, cheap labour and privatised services – are the opposite of those of most people. There’s a very great deal that can be done, even in our globalised world, to regain power and control at local and national levels. And we don’t need to look as far as Greece to find inspiration. The yes campaign in Scotland was – and is – as much about creating a fairer and more equal society and protecting public services, as about civic nationalism. Even without independence, the SNP is proposing fairer property taxes. Naming the problem an “economic crisis” gives the impression of a force beyond human control; naming it a crisis of decision-making by those in power makes it much more open to challenge.
Mary Braithwaite
Wye, Kent

• So it takes a woman to show real statesmanlike quality in a political economy dominated by men, as first Christine Lagarde and now Janet Yellen point out that the ever-rising inequality we have experienced over the last few decades is counter to the basic principle of equality of opportunitiy on which free societies are based (Report, 18 October). But both know that there is more to it than that: rising inequality also threatens the day-to-day functioning of such states. There is a limit, soon reached, to how much a single family can consume, so that the redistribution of income from poorer to richer families must lead to a chronic deficiency of demand for reproducible goods. Ever-cheaper credit to those who are income- and asset-poor is the only way of sustaining purchasing power, but with the ultimately unbearable strain that this puts on financial markets. Austerity packages that hit the poor still further only make matter worse. In his new role as senior statesman, the ex-money-market man Nigel Farage should be banging on about this rather than immigration and the EU.
William Dixon and David Wilson
London Metropolitan University

• Ed Balls is now apparently backing away from an effective property tax (Balls seeks to calm fears in London over mansion tax, 21 October). However, as your chart on the rise of the super-rich showed (UK wealth in numbers, 15 October), individual wealth increased by £1.67tn in the last year. To put this in perspective, the increase in assets has exceeded the GDP of the UK as a whole; more money has been made from wealth than from working. If just 10% of this increase were taxed, the resultant revenue could pay off both the UK deficit and the student loan book, while helping to restore the NHS budget. Labour should recognise that, whatever the problems besetting the UK, shortage of money is not one of them. What is needed is the clear political will to tax unearned wealth fairly.
Dr Mark Ellis

• Three articles in the same day’s Guardian had the same message. Ha-Joon Chang, Paul Mason and Amelia Gentleman (Coalition Britain) all, in different ways, said that austerity – and shortage of money for the majority of the population and public sector – was the reason why the economy was not functioning strongly, individuals were demoralised and services were inadequate. Hasn’t the time come for a campaign for a new economic vision – led by the Guardian?
Janet Lewis

• The UK does need a counter-narrative on the economy. Thankfully, one is already emerging locally and laterally. Any political party that thinks it can build an engaging economic narrative from the top down is living in a previous century.

Local collaborations on empty-space use, a growth in community energy cooperatives, an abundance of crowdfunded projects, and the way some local authorities are spending for maximum social value are evidence of a new momentum on bottom-up, socially minded economic growth. It is a growth model that embraces new technologies and old “friendly-society”-style inclusion; it is market-based but socially driven. It is time for Labour leaders to follow the people, and help them unleash the power in their local communities to develop a new narrative and a new economic reality.
Peter Holbrook
Chief executive, Social Enterprise UK

• Borrowing is increasing under this government, as the gaping black hole in government finances is swallowing up another £100bn-plus of borrowing this year. The truth is that the deficit has hardly reduced since 2010/11, only partly reducing because of Post Office pension and mobile phone licence windfalls into the government coffers. Add to this the fact that tax receipts are increasing at half the rate that they have been for 50 years and the corporation tax giveaway reduction by Osborne from 28% to 20% is now depriving the public finances of £8bn per year. We would be unlikely to know that this economic mismanagement has been taking place, as our BBC, ITV, radio and newspaper journalists (with the exception of the Guardian) seem wilfully incapable of bringing this to our attention. I am yet to hear Andrew Marr, Andrew Neil, James Naughtie, Evan Davis or even Martha “deficit denier” Kearney ask a government spokesperson to explain why the deficit remains stubbornly high and why for the first time in history a government would have doubled debt in one term of office, or even to draw the obvious link between low wages and low tax receipts. Our journalists are still in thrall to the debt narrative, when the facts are pointing to a failure of austerity. If they started to ask these questions, who knows, even the Labour leadership may start drawing attention to it.
Cllr Barry Kushner
Labour, Norris Green ward, Liverpool city council

• Those of a certain age may remember a BBC TV series called Tomorrow’s World that reported on new technological, scientific and medical discoveries that would improve the lives of everybody. The way these were described suggested an end to drudgery and soul-destroying jobs like fitting wheel nuts on a Ford, and shorter working hours and working weeks for everyone; production of abundant food would abolish famine, medical advances would eradicate malaria, cholera and so on. Science and technology would be used for the greater common good. It sounds like a socialist pipe dream now because the reality is the opposite. All the patents and rights to these scientific, medical and technological advances were acquired by Big Business solely to make huge profits, accumulate great wealth and put unbridled power into the hands of unelected, ruthless megalomaniacs. Too many of us have become slaves to technology working longer hours for less pay, no holidays because of zero-hours contracts, living in glorified rabbit hutches, eating unhealthy, mass-produced convenience foods and kept docile by talent shows, soap operas, football and endless repeats of Friends on the telly – the modern-day equivalent of bread and circuses; the Roman empire’s means of pacifying the plebs. Yes, capitalism works. But only for the 1%. Successive governments have sleep walked us into this dilema, and TTIP will only make matters worse. Marching through Whitehall changes nothing. Time for a completely new kind of politics.
Bob Ross

• The prime minister has opened the statutory Tory campaign against inheritance tax, by saying that it should be paid only by “the very wealthy”, and adds ‘you should be able to pass a family home on to your children rather than leave it to the taxman” (PM backs rise in inheritance tax threshold, 15 October).

If he believes that the widows and children of hard-working men are being thrown out of their homes up and down the country to meet enormous IHT bills, he needs to be reintroduced to reality.

Liability to IHT begins with estates of £325,000. The latest figures, for 2011-12, show that there were about 30,000 estates of between that figure and £500,000. But that is before various reliefs and exemptions that reduce the number actually liable to under 3,000. Their average income is £380,000, and four out of five had owned their homes – worth £230,000 on average. The IHT they paid worked out at £23,000 – again on average.

In 2011-12 fewer than 16,000 were charged IHT – less than 3% of the number of deaths. That seems as good a definition of the “very wealthy” as any. And as to being forced to sell up to meet the IHT bill, HMRC are prepared to accept payments over 10 years, or await the next sale to collect their money. Perhaps the prime minister could find out how many houses have had to be sold?
Harvey Cole
Winchester, Hampshire

• Deborah Orr (Anti-politics is all the rage, on radical left and right, 18 October) uses the disability debate to point out the fundamental difference in thinking between the left and right in politics. Conservatives (whether they describe themselves as “neolib” or not) hold that things would be so much better “if only the market could be left to make decisions unimpeded by the state”. Those of us who think somewhat more to the left hold that both the state and the market should exist for the sake of citizens, not the other way around. After all, this is in the interest of the market. They make their money by supplying demand. They won’t make money if demand in the form of citizens’ incomes is too low to sustain their supply.

Deborah rightly points out all the faults and unfairness of an unregulated market, but like all commentators these days fails to suggest possible solutions. When I had a business in Plymouth years ago I always paid my staff a living wage regardless of so-called disabilities, regardless also of business ups and downs, such that at times I drew out for my family less than staff wages. The business survived, largely because of staff loyalty. So my answer in the current debate is simple. If some employers are not prepared to accept an element of social responsibility, then they should be made to do so by regulation. For example, if say 10% of the working population are regarded as having a disability, then employers should be made to employ the same percentage in their workforce at the same rate as for all employees.

I can imagine the neolib response to this, how unfair this would be to business. Not at all. Business is reaping all the rewards in our society, at the expense of citizens, whether taxpayers, employees or consumers. It’s time they were made to return the favour.

In a wider context, Deborah talks about anti-politics being “all the rage”. Of course it is. Until the left comes out of its shell and starts shouting passionately about how our society can escape the neolib trap and start promoting an altogether more fair and equal society, people will remain dismissive.
David Stapleton
Whitchurch, Devon

• So with a degree of predictability we see that the national debt is now £1.45tn, more than £100bn higher than the same point last year (Government borrowing 10% higher than last year,, 21 October). The government’s much-heralded economic recovery is a recovery of low-waged, unpredictable and unstable jobs which automatically drives up in-work benefits, lowers tax receipts and leads to an entirely misleading form of economic growth based on increased personal debt.

A possible solution for this might be to commit to investing in better-paid and secure jobs to reduce in-work benefits and increase tax receipts. An example? There is clear evidence that healthcare spending improves economic growth. Local hospitals are therefore fundamental to the local economy. Instead we have £20bn cuts dressed up as efficiency savings , £10.8bn in savings made either by underpaying staff or cutting staffing, and a failure to give NHS staff even a 1% pay increase. This health context is a perfect microcosm of what has gone wrong with recent economic policy. That is, the clear evidence that investment in NHS staff pay and staff leads to real growth is ignored because it doesn’t fit with the demands of free-market dogma, privatisation and the interests of party funders.

While George Osborne scrabbles around the empty economic policies cupboard for pre-election sweeteners, it is time for everyone else to realise the patently obvious fact that you cannot have true economic growth if you keep reducing people’s pay.
Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action party

Scotland Training And Press Conference Gordon Strachan, Scotland’s head coach, in Warsaw, for the team’s European Championship qualifier against Poland, October 2014. Photograph: Adam Jagielak/Getty Images

Your correspondent seems to assume that Patrick Gordon Walker was parachuted in to a safe seat in Smethwick in 1964 (Letters, 21 October). However, he was the sitting MP and had been since 1945. Even though Gordon Walker lost his seat, Harold Wilson still made him foreign secretary.

The allegation of carpetbagging was certainly true of Gordon Walker’s next attempt to re-enter parliament when a byelection was engineered in the safe seat of Leyton, only for him to be rejected by the local electorate. Perhaps your reader is confusing these two events.
Roy Boffy
Aldridge, Walsall

• Like Eva Joyce (Guidelines from our own correspondents, Letters, 20 October), I “glance first at the headlines of the letter groups” when deciding what to read. So imagine my disappointment that under the headline to the left (as always) of her letter, “Scotland needs you to finish the job, Gordon”, I end up reading more stuff about Gordon Brown, rather than Gordon Strachan and his quest for European Championship qualification.
Phil O’Neill
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

“The hunt for Reds in October” (front page headline, 20 October)? The Soviet Union collapsed over 20 years ago. The Russians are no longer “the Reds”, whatever smart film allusion you might be trying to make. Use headlines to tell us the news, not to increase hysteria.
Ian Mac Eochagáin
Helsinki, Finland

• Re the comment from a student protester that objections to two women kissing in a Brighton Sainsbury’s were surprising, “something he might expect in his home town of Southampton” (Love in the aisles, 16 October). This year Southampton is celebrating 50 years as a city, and many same-sex couples walk in the city centre exchanging a cuddle or kiss – no one bats an eyelid.
Carol Cunio

• The Kleptocene (Letters, passim)?
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

Stereoscopic image of an enzyme (serene hydroxymethyltransferase) Stereoscopic image of an enzyme (serine hydroxymethyltransferase, SH) that is a potential target for anti-cancer drug development. The research work was carried out at The Institute of Cancer Research, University of London, and was published in the scientific journal Structure. Image: Dr Keith Snell

Readers wondering why a pair of stereoscopic images accompanied the story of Brian May’s Tate exhibition (Brian May turns up the stereo with Victorian 3D photos at Tate Britain, 21 October) when they need to be seen through “the lenses of a special viewer” can relax. The equipment is readily available in the form of your eyes. The technique is to hold the page about 12 inches in front of the face and focus on a point midway between the two images. Allowing the eyes to cross will combine the outer images into a central one which is then seen as stereoscopic.

Far from being a Victorian relic, such stereoscopic viewing is routinely used in scientific papers published in journals of structural molecular biology.
Dr Keith Snell
Cockermouth, Cumbria

Class at the Clacton Coastal academy. Geographical isolation can make it hard to staff schools such as Clacton Coastal academy, above. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Clacton-on-Sea may be on the end of the line in railway terms but its “failing” comprehensive school, Bishops Park college, has lessons for today (The coastal schools neglected by national initiatives, 16 October). Students felt at home, known and cared for in the three small schools that made up its campus. The school was built on the “schools within a school” model, which provides a more personalised education for all students. The integrated curriculum combined with imaginative teaching methods made possible the mixed ability teaching that was part of a whole-school commitment to inclusion and social justice.

By the time it closed in 2009 nearly all its 16-year-old leavers were going on into jobs, training or further education – a huge achievement in an area of high unemployment and low aspiration. There were nil rates of pregnancy and of permanent exclusion. Parents and the local community supported the school and used the campus facilities.

Bishops Park did not achieve the GCSE results demanded by the Department for Education. But it did not fail. What it did achieve was a school community that respected the talents and interests of all its students and gave them an authentic experience of living in the 21st century. The most important lesson to be learned from its short history is that there is an urgent need to rethink our notions of success and failure.
Mary Tasker

• Your article on coastal schools rightly highlighted their difficulty in securing excellent outcomes for students and recruiting and retaining teachers and headteachers.

Geographical isolation can present significant challenges, but the government has most definitely not left these schools behind. There are a number of government initiatives in place to support schools like Clacton Coastal academy.

Through the pupil premium – extra funding worth £2.5bn a year – we are helping schools transform the way we educate our disadvantaged children. And this is working – a recent report by Ofsted showed that the achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is closing.

But the importance of high-quality leadership in our schools cannot be overstated. We know there is a strong link between school leadership, quality of teaching, and outcomes for pupils. That is why last month I launched Talented Leaders, a programme run by the Future Leaders Trust that aims to recruit 100 exceptional school leaders and match them with schools that are facing some of the toughest challenges – predominantly those in rural, coastal or deprived areas that are finding it difficult to attract a great leader.

These brilliant heads will provide a real leadership boost to a struggling school, help to spread excellence and drive up standards across the area. We are currently recruiting the first cohort of leaders who will be in post by September 2015. Further heads will be recruited and appointed by September 2016.

And, as a further step towards tackling underperformance, we also recently announced a £13m school-to-school support fund, which over the next two years will enable our existing pool of exceptional leaders – the national leaders of education – to support schools in areas of greatest need.
David Laws MP
Schools minister

Underwater photograph of a boys high school swim team practicing in an Olympic size swimming pool. ‘If walking is excluded, swimming is the national sport for participation.’ Photograph: Alamy

Please be clear when you claim it is not “hard to argue that the national sport is booming” (Fans are more than mere customers. It’s time for reforms that could give them some clout, Editorial, 20 October) that you are referring to football spectating. Sport England’s Active People Survey shows that participation in football continues to decrease from 4.97% to 4.33% of the population and that 94% of participants are male. In fact, if walking is excluded, swimming is the national sport for participation, and 64% of participants are female. Running and cycling, in which the sexual division of play is also much more equal, are not far behind. This is important because the “booming national sport” narrative appears to legitimise spending more money on football than any other sport. This means Sport England funding per participant is £38 for football, but only £8 for swimming, £11 for athletics and £16 for cycling. In participation terms, football is neither the national sport nor booming. So, in what way does this constitute financial fair play?
Cathy Devine
Senior lecturer, sport and physical activity policy, University of Cumbria

Dr Fadipe, a Nigerian doctor who survived being infected with the Ebola virus Dr Fadipe, a Nigerian doctor who was infected with the Ebola virus and survived, credits oral rehydration fluid for his recovery. On 20 October, the World Health Organization declared the country Ebola-free. Photograph: Andrew Esiebo/WHO/AP

As we have seen with the terrible Ebola outbreak, Africa still has huge problems (On the Ebola frontline, G2, 21 October). Why doesn’t each of the EU countries adopt an African nation, to make a difference by practical help, leadership, technology and encouragement? Scotland adopted Malawi a while ago. It would be interesting to see which EU countries could make the most difference to its adoptee – and all would learn from a competitive spirit and from each other. Africa need not be like it is. It has the long-term capability to be a great resource in the world economy as a supplier and as a market. It could also help relieve the problems associated with migration to the EU (Record numbers of migrants have died in the Mediterranean, 21 October). If Africa’s economies could be fully developed, perhaps its peoples would not need to risk death to escape.
Frank Cannon

• Korto Williams makes a crucial point in arguing that an holistic approach is essential in dealing with Ebola (Letters, 20 October). Simply sending money will not work, not just because so much will be skimmed off to support the lifestyles of corrupt politicians, but because so often countries in that region do not have the capacity to implement top-down solutions. In my own experience working on HIV/Aids in Malawi, Unicef made the fundamental error of insisting on imposing a grand strategy – in a country without the framework of governance to implement it. What the country did and does have is a huge number of dedicated and capable people who would be able to cope if only they had the support they needed to do so. Simple measures such as providing health workers with bicycles to travel between villages has a vastly greater potential to help in a country without adequate public transport.
Dr Richard Carter

Letters In search of new ways forward. Photograph: Matt Kenyon

Let’s all work together

Twice in the 10 October Guardian Weekly, I noted writers citing population growth as the elephant in the room with regard to climate change. Margaret Perkins (Reply) suggests that population growth is the “number one accelerator of climate change”. John Gray’s review of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything suggests that Klein actively avoids overpopulation as the “powerful driver of environmental crisis”.

What stumps me about the shrill voice of these arguments is the silencing effect of their pronouncements: “too many people”. So, who’s first to jump? Your family? Or that nice group over there? What are you going to do about it? Who wants to discuss the effect of China’s one-child policy?

Not yet having read Klein’s latest, I’d venture that she and many others have understood humankind’s crisis as that of a rather overvirulent species. It’s not that we’re breeding; it’s that we’re living in a self-destructive manner. Let’s have a discussion on the new ways forward, rather than finger-pointing the numbers.

Billions of termites work collaboratively. Surely we can too.
Sophie Jerram
Wellington, New Zealand

• I was intrigued by the near-juxtaposition of your article on increased volcanic activity (10 October) and your review of Naomi Klein’s recent book on climate change. The article mentions that receding glaciers may lead to increased volcanic activity, but it does not mention that volcanic activity can lead to global cooling because of ash clouds cutting off sunlight.

Now it appears that reducing ice cover may increase volcanic activity, thus leading to global cooling. Could these fearsome volcanoes save humanity from climate doom?
John Wood
Cheltenham, UK

Russia and Ukraine

I read complaints about the Russians using their gas as a political weapon (Ukraine shivers in gas row, 3 October). Should they stay put while ever-tougher sanctions are thrown in their face? The billions granted from the western-dominated IMF to the Ukrainian government could be used to pay for the military campaign. Is that not a political weapon? And what about the $5bn paid since 1991 by the US government for pro-western groups in Ukraine?

There is a great deal of hypocrisy all around and less and less is clear. But at least we have an enemy to focus on instead of the worsening economy and the social crisis rampant in western democracies.
Steffen Müller
Hamburg, Germany

• I wonder why an entire page was awarded to a Russian writer and novelist so he may vent his personal malice on President Vladimir Putin (26 September). Mikhail Shishkin suggests he has a clairvoyant understanding of Putin’s plans and thoughts, then proceeds to belittle them. He has also assembled well-known criticisms of Putin, given them his own personal touch, then heaps on cliched innuendo and insult.

I do not look forward to such pamphleteering in future editions.
Chris Rezel
Rosebery, Northern Territory, Australia

Battle across the Channel

Although I cannot but agree with John Lewis boss Andy Street that the Gare du Nord in Paris is not the most welcoming of places, how can he even imagine comparing London’s St Pancras (which I would qualify as a shopping mall, with John Lewis prominently represented, with a railway station as an accessory) with the Gare du Nord, which is the biggest railway station passenger-wise in Europe and second worldwide? (10 October). People abroad are getting rather fed up with the British half-apologetic “it was just a joke”, “it wasn’t serious” as an excuse for insulting all and sundry.

I hope others will follow my example: having been a regular patron of John Lewis on my regular return visits to the UK, I shall no longer set foot in one of their stores.
Alexandra Tavernier
Marcq-en-Baroeul, France

Meaning of independence

So Ukip have won their first parliamentary seat: this is an indictment both of the voting public and mainstream politics (17 October). I can certainly see how this brand of politics can gain popularity and some of Nigel Farage’s rhetoric, especially his criticism of Brussels, does ring true. But the bubbling undertones of xenophobia leave a really bad taste.

I felt a similar bad taste during the Scottish referendum campaign, where the two main economic planks for Scotland seemed to be: a) to keep oil revenue and b) to offer tax deals to attract international corporations to Scotland.

So what is “independence”? Is it keeping foreigners out, keeping revenue for yourself and having the freedom to roll over and tout yourself as a tax haven to corporations? It should be far more than that.

How can any western country declare independence when most of what we consume is imported from low-cost production zones on the other side of the planet? Trade with distant sources is OK if it is fair and balanced, but if milk can be produced around the corner and if bread and clothing and pots and pans can be produced in your own town or region, then those things should be sourced locally rather than from centralised, automated production centres or from ultra-low-cost sweatshops at the other end of an inhumane, CO2-intensive, corporate supply chain.

We need to take a long hard look at issues of independence, exploitation and the kind of society we really want to live in.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany

• It is believed that language both reflects, and affects, the way we think. Whether Irvine Welsh’s choice of language merely reflected his thinking on Scottish independence, or was a conscious attempt to affect ours, even he possibly does not know (26 September).

His words regarding total separation, “the aspiration towards democracy”, were a sleight of hand, and avoided the complexities of the democracy question.

While most democrats would favour decentralisation, it is not clear that the total removal of direct democratic representation to the higher level (UK) is without cost to the Scottish voter.

Having an accessible representative (MP) acting on my constituency’s behalf on any remaining matters that Scotland will share with the other parts of the UK seems to me, as a voter, more democratic than having my views diluted and mediated by a small Holyrood elite.

These are still sensitive times, and complex questions of what is more democratic should be considered as impartially as possible.
Roger Humphry
Errol, UK


• I was amused to learn that Mataelpino has abandoned running in front of bulls in favour of a large polystyrene ball (10 October), especially as it is a village not 10km from where I live. Our locals still run ahead of bulls (though you have to wonder at a culture where running away is deemed a display of bravery). But no wonder the residents of Mataelpino have abandoned the tradition – they were historically clearly not the most macho, as the name of their village translates as “kill the pine tree”.
Alan Williams-Key
Madrid, Spain

• It is disappointing that Richard Adams (3 October) does not mention whether the literacy test given to schoolchildren in England covered comprehension. If all that the test checked was to see whether children could sound out or pronounce words correctly, it is no great surprise that they managed. Isn’t that precisely what the phonics method focuses on – at the expense of encouraging children to find meaning? Your report suggests that there is nothing wrong in this approach. For nearly 40 years, the child’s search for meaning has been known to be the prime goal of early literacy. The English system seems bent on progressing backwards.
Krishna Kumar
Delhi, India

• You raise the concern (10 October) that China is “project[ing] power far beyond” its borders. As a result, its planes and US military aircraft are frequently meeting over the East China and South China seas. The East China sea sounds pretty close to China but it’s a long way from the US. Just who is projecting power far beyond its borders?

Patricia Clarke

Toronto, Canada

• The revelations in Harriet Sherwood’s front-page report (Isis and the schoolgirl jihadis, 3 October) came as shock. The explanation as to the cause followed in Paul Verhaeghe’s Neoliberal economy brings out the worst in us.
André Carrel
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (20 October) is probably right that Russell Brand is a “dilettante”. But he challenges the status quo and stands up for those who are on its sharp end, like the young mothers in Newham. 

So he strikes a chord with tens of thousands of young – and older – people. Does anyone think that a book by Ed Miliband, who can’t even bring himself to support strike action by teachers or nurses, would fly off the shelves like Revolution is doing?

Alibhai-Brown is appalled that Brand won’t vote. Yet we all know that millions will abstain in the general election next year. Why? Because there is nothing to choose between the policies of three, now four, pro-big-business parties.

We need a party for the men and women who aren’t part of the corporate elite, a party for trade unionists, NHS users, pensioners, the low-paid, immigrants and young people who need decent jobs and homes. When there’s a real choice, and a chance to make a difference, you’ll get high turnouts, as we saw in Scotland’s referendum.

Nobody I know is sitting around “awaiting the revolution”. We’re defending services, fighting cuts, striking for a living wage, standing in elections as anti-cuts candidates for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), offering people an alternative. We got 10 per cent in Salford last year. If we had PR we’d have a councillor or two.

Alibhai-Brown’s “institutional overhaul” of Parliament won’t bring them flocking to the polling stations – but a clear stand and a socialist alternative is like a breath of fresh air for the disenfranchised.

Paul Gerrard

Chair, Salford against Cuts, Manchester

Edward Collier (letter, 17 October) asks: “In what parallel universe is it fair that it takes 33,000 votes to return one Labour MP and 120,000 for a Lib Dem and 285,000 for a Green?” It was the system that delivers this inequity that a large majority of people actually voted for in a referendum.

I personally regret that decision, but I accept that it is the democratic will of our people, expressed in a referendum where every vote was equal.

Pete Rowberry

Saxmundham, Suffolk


Freudian slip raises a real question

There is something desperate about Ed Miliband’s outrage over Lord Freud’s case of foot-in-mouth.

He must know that this is not an issue that can be just harrumphed away. As a society, we have to look at the situation honestly. Nobody should be discriminated against, but if we want disabled people to participate in economic activity, we have to recognise that they cannot make the same contribution as an able-bodied person. It’s a big ask to expect an employer to take on a disabled person at the same wage as an able-bodied person.

The solution is for the welfare system to make up the difference. Such a policy would be perfectly acceptable to disabled people, and less of a burden on the Treasury than paying a full disability allowance.

What’s astonishing is that the Government doesn’t seem to see that – and David Cameron couldn’t spot a prime opportunity to steal Ed Miliband’s thunder.

Simon Prentis



A huge concern making billions can reasonably be expected to employ a proportion of disabled people at its own expense. A smaller outfit could be damaged by having an employee who, through no fault of their own, was less than optimally productive; in such a case it could be to the benefit of the firm, the disabled employee and society at large for the taxpayer to contribute towards their payment.

That was possibly the point that Lord Freud was trying to make. But he made it badly, and should not be a spokesman for that reason.

He may, however, have done us all a service in raising the issue of “worth”. It could be said that no one is worth more than, say, 20 times the living wage. But many are paid vastly more than that and it is their worth that needs to be challenged.

Susan Alexander

Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

The welfare minister claimed some disabled people are not worth the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour and that he’d think about how those unfortunates who might wish to work for £2 an hour might be helped to do so.

A Freudian slip or another Tory “reform” in the offing? The mindset of this divided old political party – the oldest in Europe – is as revolting as it is revealing towards the end of this parliament, no matter how artfully disguised at the beginning.

They’re out of touch, out of time –and out of here soon if there’s to be any fairness at all about politics.

John Haran

Leigh-on-Sea, Essex


Theatre of the absurd

I warmly applaud Adrian Hamilton’s article on the current theatrical fashion to rewrite or traduce plays that are part of the European classical canon (15 October). However, he omitted to mention the mauling British dramatists have received at such hands.

In a recent National Theatre production of what was claimed to be Marlowe’s Edward II the audience was greeted with a cast dressed in bomber jackets, all smoking furiously and constantly on mobile phones. Scenes were added that are not in the Marlowe text and much that is was omitted.

The nadir of this production, to me, was the scene where Edward’s court celebrated his Pyrrhic victory over the barons by waving plastic swords and dancing the hokey-cokey accompanied by an electric keyboard player on stage.

I certainly do not wish for museum theatre, but production companies must be more honest with theatre-goers. They should announce that this is Ms X’s or Mr Y’s version of Oedipus, Medea or Edward II and omit the names of Sophocles, Euripides or Marlowe from their publicity. But that might not generate the same ticket sales.

Dr Mick Morris

Hamilton, Lanarkshire


For the second time in recent months I have walked out of a London theatre because of a play’s continuous and unnecessary foul language.

Needless to say I was denied a refund of my ticket price. As I bought my ticket at the box office just before the start of the matinee performance I could not have been aware of the vile content.

Have other theatre goers also been caught out like this, and is it not time all prospective audiences were warned about such disgusting content? In future I will check before buying tickets, assuming I ever consider risking attending another London theatre venue.

Adrian Appley

Bromley, Kent


John Walsh is quite right in advocating the abolition of tiresome theatre intervals (16 October). However, I would request one exception – the Royal Opera House.

Much of the seating at this ludicrously expensive venue is unfit for humans (battery chickens spring to mind) and 30 minutes is about all I can bear on the rare occasions that I find myself being “entertained” there.

David Bracey

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire


Now, the three-day passport

Beverley Southgate (letter, 9 October) lavished well-deserved praise on the Passport Office after receiving her passport five working days after applying.

Who can beat this? I applied for my passport renewal on 6 October and received my new one on 9 October – after three working days! My congratulations to both the Passport Office and the Post Office.

Whatever new brooms, prunings or decapitations were necessary to achieve such high standards of public service efficiency, pray that they may soon be mobilised to thin out the dead wood in our NHS.

Ben Marshall

London N11


Housing help for the super-rich

Labour proposes a “mansion tax”. This will tax out middle-class Londoners who bought their houses more than 30 years ago and are now coming into retirement on modest pensions. How will that benefit any housing crisis other than that of the very wealthy wanting central London properties?

When the middle classes got driven out of Manhattan in the 1980s it became a ghetto for the super-rich and a once thriving and diverse cultural scene has been reduced to fighting for the best opera seats and to-be-seen-in restaurants.

Stephane Duckett

London SEII


Ebola or not, we need Heathrow

Nigel Long (letter, 16 October) moves away from a sensible discussion about Ebola to confuse the debate about Heathrow.

It is not airline and airport operator profits driving the need for growth but the long-term interests of current and future generations who will be affected by a decline in our international standing if Heathrow’s hub status is allowed to decline further.

Simon King

Twickenham, Middlesex


Sir, Lord Adonis and others want us to build at least 240,000 homes a year, and say that “the country must set itself on a sustainable path . . . Our children deserve no less” (“Direction needed”, letter, Oct 20).

Our children deserve to inherit a truly sustainable country. Endless growth, which of course means endless destruction of the environment, is impossible in our small and finite land. It leads to ever-increasing overcrowding and ever-reducing quality of life.

The crisis affecting our country is not the lack of housing but the strain imposed on the nation by rapid and continual population growth. Official projections confirm that the UK population is likely to rise from 64 million in 2012 to 70 million by 2027. Although more distant projections are less certain, the expectation is for continued growth, to 73 million by 2037, 75 million by 2050, 80 million by 2071, 85 million by 2087 and 90 million by 2112.

The urgent need is for a policy to aim for a sustainable population — our children deserve no less.

Peter Graystone
May Bank, Staffs

Sir, Your correspondents make a sound case for comprehensive housing development of 240,000 houses a year. But since that target, even if achievable, will involve an inevitable delay in negotiations and approvals, why not adopt a realistic short-cut through the provision of factory-made, flat-pack houses on short-leased brownfield sites, as we did in helping to solve the postwar housing shortage via the extremely popular prefabs?

As before, tenants could be offered more permanent houses when they become available and the sites then be released for permanent development. The flat-pack houses could be re-erected elsewhere, as needed, in a rolling programme.

Russ Randall
Rochford, Essex

Sir, Lord Adonis wants us to build new housing but offers no concrete suggestions. In our tiny cul-de-sac we are fighting builders who are trying to get planning permission to build four three-bedroom houses, in what is, for London, an average back garden, their excuse being that the houses are desperately needed.

If only the government would look at the bigger picture the answer is staring them in the face. Build Boris Johnson’s estuary airport and use Heathrow to build a complete new town right next to London. The infrastructure is all there right down to the Tube station, and the price of the land would go a long way to paying for the new airport.

Carol Caplan
London N11

Sir, Nick Donovan, the managing director of TransPenine, says he is short of nine trains and can see no solution to the shortage of rolling stock (“Key rail line faces being shunted into sidings”, Oct 20). Yet many railway preservation societies have carefully maintained working diesel engines and serviceable carriages that might fill the gap.

Everyone could win. The company could provide an improved service, the railway societies would gain a solid income stream and be seen to be acting in the public interest.

John Gainsborough

Alciston, E Sussex

Sir, Dame Judi Dench may have little trouble memorising poetry (Oct 20) but many of us would fail with modern works which fail to adhere to the strictures of the late Auberon Waugh that they should “rhyme, scan and make sense”. Today’s stream-of-consciousness stuff eludes me by its self-indulgent wanderings.

Come back Kipling, Eliot and Auden, all is forgiven.

Robert Vincent

Wildhern, Hants

Sir, Nick Donovan, the managing director of TransPenine, says he is short of nine trains and can see no solution to the shortage of rolling stock (“Key rail line faces being shunted into sidings”, Oct 20). Yet many railway preservation societies have carefully maintained working diesel engines and serviceable carriages that might fill the gap.

Everyone could win. The company could provide an improved service, the railway societies would gain a solid income stream and be seen to be acting in the public interest.

John Gainsborough

Alciston, E Sussex

Sir, There is nothing new about playing darts against sightless players — and with no “strings” attached (Oct 21). After the Second World War, a team from St Dunstan’s played a team from the British Legion. The rules were the same, except that the Legion had to start and finish on a double. St Dunstan’s beat us!

Dennis Milstone

Northwood, Middx

Sir, You report that British visitors to the café in Adinkerke are pleased to see “a bottle of HP sauce standing proudly on the counter” (“Smokers take ‘fag ferry’ to stock up and beat taxman”, Oct 21). Let’s hope they don’t notice the label, which says “Made in the Netherlands”.

Geoff Wilkins

Tiffield, Northants

Sir, Dr Michael Mosley’s advice on how to test the freshness of eggs (“What to do with old food”, Times2, Oct 21), reminded me of living in the late 1950s in The Gambia, where my mother would test the eggs being sold to her by a doorstep salesman by immersing them in a bucket of water. If they lay horizontally at the bottom she bought them; if they floated, she didn’t. The test never failed.

Peter Sergeant

Hathern, Leics


A 1976 Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR3 Jump Jet  Photo: Silverstone Auctions

6:56AM BST 21 Oct 2014

SIR – The British-designed P1127 – the prototype Harrier fighter – first flew on October 21 1960, a date shared with Lord Nelson’s success at Trafalgar in 1805.

The situation developing in Ukraine and the Middle East may require, once again, everything this country can provide, including both new aircraft carriers. Britain’s “next generation” fighter, the

F-35, is not ready, not serviceable, not battle-proven and is so expensive that only small numbers are ordered.

Financial prudence was argued in the decision to withdraw the Harrier. However, it is still held in such high regard by other operators – including the USA, who purchased all our Harriers when they were decommissioned – that they will remain in service for many years yet. Britain’s financial circumstances and the world’s security situation have both changed since this decision was made.

We need our carriers soon and fully equipped with battle-proven aircraft to give them fighting capability. Harriers of existing specification should be manufactured urgently and in significant numbers. The unit cost would be a fraction of that of the F-35 and they would be in service much earlier. When the F-35 proves itself, it could then be introduced, but aircraft carriers without aircraft are a liability, not an asset.

In the hours before battle, Lord Nelson signalled his fleet: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” Part of that duty, surely, is to be ready. We are not.

Mark Harrison
Guernsey, Channel Islands

Is inheritance teax justified at the current threshold?

6:57AM BST 21 Oct 2014


SIR – The Reverend Peter Dyson informs us that inheritance tax is entirely justifiable because we have a moral duty to redistribute our wealth to the rest of society.

Some of us in this country have not inherited our wealth but have worked hard to earn it and have paid a substantial amount of tax in doing so. Having already redistributed wealth in this way, I fail to understand why he believes it should be necessary to do it again.

Perhaps he would like to explain his case to my children, who, faced with ever-increasing house prices, would struggle to set foot on the first rung of the housing ladder without help from their parents.

Paul Davison
Woking, Surrey

SIR – Jennifer List should not assume that her executors will be unable to make use of the unused portion of her late spouse’s inheritance tax nil rate band when she dies. When my mother died after the introduction of the present system, as her executor I was able to make use of the unused allowance from my father’s estate; he died in 1982, well before the present system was introduced.

Contrary to popular opinion, the HMRC website is clear and helpful on this and other matters.

Peter Bugge
Paxford, Gloucestershire

SIR – Sadly, David Cameron’s pledge to raise the inheritance tax threshold, thereby enabling people to pass their family home to their children, will not benefit the people who have had to sell the family home in order to fund the cost of their care in later life.

I remain unconvinced by his pre-election pledges; desperate measures from a desperate man.

Kirsty Blunt
Sedgeford, Norfolk


How homogenised milk is ruining one reader’s breakfast

articipiants take part in the traditional milk carton boat regatta in Jelgava, Latvia 30 August 2014. 38 teams try to outdo each other building rafts out of milk cartons

Milk float: two men take part in the traditional milk carton boat regatta in Jelgava, Latvia  Photo: EPA

6:58AM BST 21 Oct 2014


SIR – I have always enjoyed “top of the milk” cream on my cereals for breakfast and had milk delivered in a glass bottle until three months ago. My milkman then began delivering the milk in plastic bottles, which changed the flavour – I neither liked the taste, nor was I able to decant the cream from the top.

The explanation given was that the milk I had previously received was no longer available, as it didn’t suit plastic, and milk now had to be not only pasteurised but also homogenised. I have changed to Channel Island milk, but this is also homogenised – so there is still no cream rising to the top for my porridge.

Why are both dairy farmers and consumers being dictated to? No wonder the farmers are receiving less money for their milk.

Christine Ash
Canterbury, Kent

Fame at last

SIR – I wonder how many of your readers eagerly scanned your article featuring previously unpublished letters in the hope of seeing their own submission published there?

I certainly did. It wasn’t.

Mrs Denise Taylor
Glossop, Derbyshire

Perfect pubs

SIR – George Orwell set out 10 attributes of an ideal pub, but there was one that he took for granted.

Over the past year a colleague and I have been carrying out systematic research into what makes for a successful pub. We have found that the critical factor is the active presence of the landlord or landlady. Take this away and even a tavern that has everything going for it in terms of location, architecture and potential clientele will wither on the vine.

Ivor Morgan

SIR – When Paul Moody, who co-wrote the book ‘The Search for the Perfect Pub’, argued that “nobody can be objectionable with a pint in his hand” he proved two things: the gap between academia and reality, and the fact that he has never worked on Fleet Street.

Chris Boffey
London N8

Call me Steve

SIR – I will let Steve Baldock in on a secret: us twenty-somethings find it disconcerting to be addressed by our surnames. The reasons for this are numerous and would undoubtedly make a fascinating anthropological essay.

We do still follow the mantra of “treat others as you wish to be treated”, so in addressing Mr Baldock by his first name his interviewees were just being polite.

Ruth Huneke
Ostrava, Czech Republic

Square digits

SIR – If we were meant to have straight-cut nails, as the scientists at the University of Nottingham have proclaimed, surely we should have been provided with square ends to our fingers in the first place.

Hugh Bebb
Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex

Zac Goldsmith’s blueprint for the power of recall would serve those with vested interestes and big money

Mr Clegg used a speech to call for tighter controls on immigration from new EU states

Nick Clegg: MPs should not sit as judge and jury on themselves Photo: PA

6:59AM BST 21 Oct 2014


SIR – Your editorial “Plans to keep MPs in line are an insult to voters” contained a number of inaccuracies.

In the Coalition Government, it is the Liberal Democrats who have consistently argued for a power of recall to be introduced to apply to those MPs who have committed “serious wrongdoing”. That was always the proposal on the table for legislation in this Parliament, by this Coalition Government.

However, the Conservatives in Government have consistently dragged their feet on this important issue. They originally blocked it being included in the Queen’s Speech this year and it only made it in after an eleventh-hour change of heart from the Prime Minister.

Subsequently, when I have argued for the proposals to be as strong as possible, it has been made abundantly clear that, as one Conservative minister put it: “We [Conservative MPs] would not wear it.”

Putting that to one side, it is right that we now properly debate the details of how recall will work. On principle, I don’t agree with the blueprint put forward by Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith. His is not the people’s recall, it’s the rich man’s recall. It would provide a field day for those with vested interests and big money who don’t like how an MP has voted on controversial issues such as gay marriage, abortion, fox hunting or military action. This would lead to some MPs facing near constant threats of recall.

Members of Parliament can, and absolutely should, be held to account in general elections for how they have voted as MPs. But the recall process should be for those who have indeed committed “serious wrongdoing”. It is right that we now actively consider, as the Recall of MPs Bill is debated in Parliament, the best possible way to define and test “serious wrongdoing”. Liberal Democrat MPs will be bringing forward proposals to ensure that MPs don’t sit as judge and jury on themselves, and I hope they gain support from MPs and parties across the House of Commons.

Nick Clegg MP
Deputy Prime Minister

A fire engine waits below burnt cooling towers at Didcot B Power Station in Didcot  Photo: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

7:00AM BST 21 Oct 2014


SIR – The closure of Didcot B power station due to a fire could have a serious impact on electricity prices and supplies in an already tight situation.

In the past eight months six large power plants, representing just under 12 per cent of our peak electricity-generating capacity, have closed unexpectedly due to fires or mechanical breakdowns. Even before five of these closures, Ofgem warned that electricity-generating margins could drop below 2 per cent in the winter of 2015/16.

The Government must better incentivise remaining power plant operations, starting by removing the high carbon price floor tax, which could result in the early closure of up to 10 coal-fired power stations over the next five years.

Tony Lodge
Centre for Policy Studies
London SW1

SIR – As an engineer who worked on the design and construction of our nuclear power stations in the Sixties and Seventies, I am deeply concerned that we now rely wholly on foreign expertise and finance for this vital contribution to our energy sector.

With no British alternative, the French company EDF has been lined up for the design, construction and operation of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant and already owns other nuclear power stations in Britain. Not only have we lost this expertise along with the resultant rewards, but we will also pay the price when we use the subsidised energy.

Meanwhile Austria has raised a legal challenge over the European Commission’s decision to approve the plant, so we are faced with a greater delay and increased cost thanks to membership of the EU.

Jim W Barrack
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

SIR – The media and politicians confuse energy with electricity. In Britain, electricity accounts for a mere 26 per cent of our total energy demand, so whether we supply this small proportion from nuclear, coal or renewables is not the main issue. Energy policy must address how we are going to deal, in a sustainable way, with the 41 per cent of our energy demand which is heat and the 33 per cent which is transport.

If Hinkley Point C does produce 7 per cent of our electricity in a decade’s time, it will still only be supplying around 1.8 per cent of our total energy demand – not much to show for the expenditure.

Ian M Arbon
Pinmore, Ayrshire

SIR – Gradually moving away from fossil fuels is one thing, but dashing headlong into shutting down reliable plants before securing viable, affordable alternatives is irresponsible.

Our industrial competitors are not on the same track. New coal-fired power stations are still under construction in Germany and elsewhere, soon to be producing reliable power at a fraction of the cost of our unreliable alternative sources.

Dr Bev Wilkinson

Irish Times:

Sir, – Is Irish Water a public utility or a public futility? – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I recall canvassing in the 1977 general election (for Fianna Fáil) and being certain of an overall majority only two days into the campaign. While I believe the victory was due to a combination of the charisma of Jack Lynch and the sweeteners of the abolition of car tax and rates, the response at the doors was “get them out”.

If the present Government does not renounce Irish Water, and all its works, it will face the same treatment as the 1973-77 coalition. The democratic revolution that they promised has now been taken out of their hands .

Furthermore, the escalation of street politics has its own inherent dangers that should be obvious to all of us on this island. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Given that this overincentivised, overstaffed monopoly has shown itself to be so inefficient even before a single bill has been calculated, perhaps it should be privatised sooner rather than later? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – In recent times, technically astute humans sent a spacecraft to the planet Mars, upon which a remotely controlled vehicle landed, drove about and transmitted data back to Earth. In a year or so another spacecraft will land a probe on a comet and again data will be transmitted to Earth.

Meanwhile back on “planet Irish Water”, a customer wishing to retrieve water usage data will be required to lie on his belly on the footbath, prise open the meter lid and hope that he is lucky enough to have a meter where the digits are visible. Truly installation and operation of water meters is not rocket science. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – The news that some members of staff working for Irish Water will be awarded a performance-related payment even if their performance requires improvement has generated much debate. Politicians and the general public should be aware that a similar scheme has been operating in the public sector for decades. It is called “getting  your increment”. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – And so the saga of how not to set up a company, especially a State-owned company, goes on. The company was set up offering a defective product (charging people for a water supply system that wasn’t properly set up in the first instance – full of leaks), which, if it were a private company offering such a product, would immediately result in political and public uproar. The product was badly costed from the outset; indeed, people were being told for a long time that the costing was still being worked out. What a way for a company to launch a product! Then we learned that it was going to employ more people to deliver the service than was necessary to do so, simply because they had to take over the water systems of the existing local authority councils, which apparently it was known that they didn’t need.

And now we learn that this magnificent monopoly, which it seems can obligate us to pay whatever it decides to charge, is to pay bonuses to staff for doing what they are supposed to be doing! It isn’t as though they will have to go out and sign up new customers – we all have to be their customers, whether we would want to or not. And it seems that bonuses will be paid to people who are deemed to be not working satisfactorily – in a monopoly.

What a hare-brained system and what hare-brained thinking behind its setting-up! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The broadcast media habit of asking every Government politician about Irish Water, including views on the tenure of the chief executive, is becoming tedious in the extreme. I wish those politicians would deliver a stock response: “Ask the Minister for the Environment”.

It’s a practice that might well catch on. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – It’s time to shout “Stop!” Irish Water is totally discredited. The final nail in its coffin has been the revelation of the award of bonuses to staff.

When the leaks in the system are repaired, people will be willing to pay a fair charge to the State, provided the service remains in public ownership. This latest quango must be dismantled forthwith. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – When Irish Water was being set-up by the Minister for the Environment, it is inconceivable, and indeed unforgivable, that the salary structures were not set down strictly by the Government. The details of salaries and “performance-related” pay now revealed are staggering to behold for the extremely hard-pressed citizen.

The idea that Irish Water staff with a rating of “performance needs improvement” will be able to avail of a substantial increase is beyond belief. The outcome, of course, will be that the Government will announce that the staff were appointed with this ridiculous pay structure as their “terms and conditions”, their contract, and that this cannot legally be changed. Once more the Government has scored an own goal. What a country! – Yours, etc,



A chara, – The annual cost for water in a family home? Hundreds. Bonuses for water-workers? Thousands. The cost of setting up Irish Water? Millions. The value of all this for the Opposition come the next general election unless there are major changes soon? Priceless. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – What an excellent article by Rev Dr D Twomey, a highly qualified celibate, male, moral theologian, defending celibate, male, moral theology on marriage and the family (“Synod feeds secular agenda hostile to traditional family”, Opinion & Analysis, October 18th). However, celibate male theology has no place in real-life family situations.

As a non-celibate, non-male parent, I challenge Dr Twomey’s theology based on my own experience of raising a large family. If I had adhered to church teaching, particularly Humanae Vitae, my marriage and my family would not have survived. Pope Paul Vl encyclical Humanae Vitae is one of the main causes of the collapse of confession.

Dr Twomey needs to come out of his theological ivory tower and rub shoulders with us sinners. What is at stake for the church is not “holiness”, it is “love”. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – Congratulations to Fr Vincent Twomey for so eloquently and compassionately expressing the concerns of many Catholics regarding the agenda of some groups in the recent synod.

It’s interesting that Fr Twomey is attacked by Declan Kelly (October 21st) and others for daring to comment due to his vow of celibacy. So much for respect for plurality and diversity of views.

On the basis of this logic, presumably faithful and childless Catholic couples are also debarred from the debate. One only wishes that those opposed to Fr Twomey’s analysis would express themselves in the same civilised and respectful manner that he employs. – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – As scripture says, “the road that leads to perdition is wide an spacious, and many take it, but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). All the Catholic Church can do is light up the narrow road that leads to life.

Some liberal commentators on the synod apparently want the Catholic Church to light up the broad road that leads to perdition instead. That road, however, would still lead to perdition no matter how well lit up it is. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 15.

Sir, – If “ordinary men and women” (Seán O’Riordan, October 21st), though sexually faithful and living family-oriented lives, cannot be persuaded to think that responsible artificial contraception family planning is very wrong, perhaps the church and its proponents should settle for two out of three, even if they themselves are somewhat at a remote remove from such actual situations.

Perhaps the essence of the issue is that some people believe as much or more in a faith system than in a deity? –Yours, etc,


Dublin 12.

Sir, – Here we go again. A scandal comes to light, the Robert McCartney killing, the “Disappeared”, the Maíria Cahill story – and we hear the same old defence-strategies being employed by Sinn Féin. Surely they can come up with a better word than “wrong”?

When will voters for this party tumble to the fact that, however in need of reform Northern Ireland was, the campaign of violence of the Provisional IRA has made the situation much worse, for all of us. Senior members of Sinn Féin, of older and newer vintages, have staunchly come to the defence of the party in claiming there was no cover-up within Sinn Féin itself, which is hardly an earth-shattering position to take. How could they be expected to know what went on within the IRA? Surely the whole point of paramilitarism was to keep the left hand guessing what the right hand was doing, hence the dearth of authentic information.This country has been ill-served by “armed struggle” and the sooner this is acknowledged by all, the sooner we can clean out every corner of our reeking stables. – Yours, etc,


Holywood, Co Down.

Sir, – Surely nobody can possibly believe that an institution that enjoys the trust and support of so many Irish people has not only been harbouring alleged sexual abusers in its ranks, but has also attempted to deal with such issues internally and has actively discouraged witnesses from notifying the proper authorities? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – I’ve no doubt that the issue of Sinn Féin’s transfer toxicity with the electorate would be ameliorated by a change of leader. The problem for its members, though, is that they seem to be afraid to tell him. – Yours, etc,


Clonsilla, Dublin 15.

Sir, – I was greatly concerned by the views expressed in a recent article (“Students are guinea pigs in Trinity’s experiment”, Education Opinion, October 14th).

I have been dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard for almost 30 years. During that time we – just like other major universities in the United States – have used a holistic admissions system, involving many of the same elements Trinity is testing in this study. Far from being “mumbo jumbo”, and an arcane practice “verging on voodoo”, this approach is recognised as providing a more reliable way of admitting talented students who will excel in their studies and in all their endeavours during college and beyond.

Over the past few years I have watched Trinity’s work with great interest, and have helped support and advise it in its attempts to apply internationally respected indicators to an Irish context. At Harvard every year we run a “Summer Institute” where we discuss the benefits of the use of personal statements and review panels with experts from many nations. They would certainly be surprised by the charges in the article.

Trinity has acted responsibly in running this study on a very small scale, and it is unfortunate to condemn Trinity, one of the most respected universities in the world, for attempting to test something that is seen as standard practice in its peer institutions. – Yours, etc,



Dean of Admissions

and Financial Aid,

Harvard University,



Sir, – In his response to John McAvoy’s welcome and overdue criticism of TCD’s latest admission novelty, Patrick Geoghegan revealingly speaks of the “problem of the points race” (“We stand over our attempt to solve the points problem”, Education Opinion, October 21st).

The points system fairly compares school-leavers by their performance in the national school curriculum and examination system to which everyone has equal access.

Prof Geoghegan speaks of the Leaving Certificate as a “single examination”. It is not. Students are examined in at least seven subjects, including universal subjects English and mathematics and a wide choice of other subjects designed to develop a range of aptitudes and abilities. Universities are involved in school curricular development and reform.

Prof Geoghegan quotes unnamed “international experts” as favouring “holistic” admission systems. The US 2008 Commission on Admission and the UK NFER Report of 2010 both recommended the use of school curricular-based tests for admission rather than non-curricular tests.

Mr McAvoy raised valid questions in relation to the TCD experiment. Who is excluded by it? Can it be “gamed” by wily applicants? How is an applicant expected to prepare for it? Is it fair? The points system is. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – Ciaran O’Neill has got it in one (“Paying for privilege”, Education Analysis, October 21st). What fee-paying schools offer is “polish”.

When stripped out for variables such as family and class background, there is no particular evidence that these schools add much educational heft to their customers. Their essential raison d’être is to supply narrow socio-economic ghettos, where PLUs (“people like us”, à la Ross O’Carroll-Kelly) won’t have to mix with hoi polloi.

While Dr O’Neill’s academic emphasis is on Roman Catholic schools, it should be noted that Protestant schools in the Dublin catchment area have benefited considerably from this rush towards the snobbish. Without it, many of these institutions would have simply run out of their traditional customers. As Catholicism as a religious force has weakened, Roman Catholics who seek out PLUs have increasingly turned towards these “Protestant” schools – to the point where their “Protestant” ethos is close to a puzzling anachronism, given that so many of their students, and a very significant proportion of their teachers, are not Protestant, whatever else they may be.

The schools, incidentally, are very coy about making public the breakdown of students and staff by religious denomination, or none. What does that tell us?

Private secondary education is a pernicious purveyor and perpetuator of hereditary class privilege. It should have no place in a modern republic. If it’s good enough for the Finns to do without, it should be good enough for us.

But even if we accept its existence as one price for liberty and freedom of choice, let’s stop the hypocrisy that it has some purely educational value. In that context, it should not be the function of the State to offer it financial support at the expense of citizens who cannot access it. Yours, etc, –


Sidney Sussex College,

Sir, – It is convenient for Facebook if women delay having children, and that is what makes their new policy so unethical (“Facebook offers to freeze eggs of employees”, October 18th). Once employees have children, priorities change and the most important thing in life becomes their child, not their job. By offering to pay $20,000 to freeze eggs, Facebook is sending the message that a woman’s career might be hindered if she decides to have a child earlier rather than later. Multinational corporations should never be involved in the decision about when to start a family. Facebook has been criticised for not having enough female employees, but asking women to freeze their eggs is not the way to keep some of their most valuable workers. A better way to spend $20,000 would be offering better onsite childcare or, maybe more importantly, introducing paternity leave for their male employees. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 1.

Sir, – Olivia Mitchell TD is reported to have claimed that expanding our gene pool through immigration in the Celtic Tiger years has resulted in taller children (“Celtic Tiger gene pool expansion has made us better-looking”, Front Page, October 20th). I think she must be confused because over the same period our politicians have clearly become smaller. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Irish Independent:

So, now we know! The problem with water charges has nothing to do with the exorbitant cost of establishing a new utility to collect additional taxes. The problem has nothing to do with reduction in wages, the property tax, the USC and the general austerity experienced by citizens of this State.

The problem is communication.

Is it beyond the comprehension of government ministers that patient tolerant Paddy may have had enough of political spin.

The management of our economy and society is entrusted to them.

Waste after waste after waste, from electronic voting machines, decentralisation to the HSE, there is little or no control over the cost of capital projects and the general disregard for the stresses and strains imposed on large sectors of society cannot and should not continue.

Management at the higher levels of the public service appear to rely more and more on commissioned reports and to use these, when convenient, to justify their analysis of what needs to be done.

Why bother employing the heads of management at high salary levels when invariably they rely on contracted reports rather than furnishing their own ideas and solutions?

Have our leaders become so impotent that they cannot serve society without the input of ‘independent’ consultants.

‘Yes Minister’ was a comedy programme; but when applied to day-to-day reality it is truly a tragedy.

The transparency of political discourse designed only to minimise losses at the ballot boxes has become so overt that one can only despair at the quality of leadership on offer.

Fred Meaney

Dalkey, Co Dublin


Enough is enough

Well, the fat is well and truly in the fire now. And the enforcer who did Enda’s bidding is well and truly enjoying his reward in Europe.

There is no doubt that the protest meeting of two weeks ago on Dublin’s O’Connell Street has not only spurred the people on, but has frightened the daylights out of the Government.

But, be careful – our politicians are cute and they know that complacency is easily slipped into.

There is a follow-up protest jamboree arranged for November 1, and this has to be the occasion that ensures the Government is convinced that the people mean business.

In 1979, the famous PAYE march on a Thursday was so successful that a super march was arranged for the following Sunday.

Unfortunately, that march had to be cancelled – due to lack of interest.

Make sure that lack of interest is dead and buried and that the Government is left in no doubt as to where the people stand.

This issue has nothing to do with politics.

It is simply the people saying: enough is enough.

RJ Hanly

Screen, Co Wexford

Irish Water – the hard sell

The Government must now be considering the situation of Irish Water.

The demonstrations by the people who elected them speaks volumes.

Equally, the conduct of this entity, Irish Water, must be in question.

The costs associated with its establishment were approved without any consideration of marketing the service to the consumer.

The decision to introduce water costs at the beginning of winter beggars belief, when all it seems to do at this time of year is to rain.

What new start-up would attempt to sell something without a promise of providing a better service.

Irish Water has failed to sell the idea of why there should be water charges of any description.

I, for one, believe that if the Government wishes to proceed with this project, let it place it out to tender as it should have done at the start and stop this insult to the people of Ireland.

Paul Cormican

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


Tough choices this winter

I am a disabled person. As winter approaches I find myself in the unhappy position of having to choose between food, water, heat or light.

According to my lease if I allow any of these utilities lapse my landlord has the right to turn me out of my privately rented flat, thus plunging me into homelessness. What kind of cruelty prompts government TDs to cross that lobby and vote for one regressive budget after another?

Eileen O’Sullivan

Bray, Co Wicklow


Time can only tell

For those of us old enough to remember – in 1970, we moved from a centralised health system to one of Regional Health Boards. We were told it would take some time for the new system to work properly. It never did.

In 2005, we were told the new centralised HSE would replace the health boards. It too was to improve the system. Has it?

In the Dail, last Thursday, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said that it would take time for the water-management functions of the local authorities to become embedded properly.

Is that a threat or a promise?

John F Jordan

Killiney, Co Dublin


If the tap fits . . .

“This isn’t a company, it’s a monster!”

I’m reminded of the comment by Deputy US Marshal Samuel Gerard (a memorable Tommy Lee Jones) in the 1993 movie ‘The Fugitive’ on discovering the financial turnover of the fictional pharma corporation, Devlin MacGregor.

Emerging behemoths please note. If the tap fits . . .

Oliver McGrane

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


Stranger on a train

“Tickets, cheers.”

The female ticket inspector on the Connolly to Belfast (Enterprise) train on Monday had a smile and manner to brighten any morning. Indeed, just the ticket!

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9


Return of the chamber pot

The return to popularity of the pot under the bed in order to save water – as predicted by so many – may have one positive consequence.

It will, at last, justify referring to the Seanad as the upper chamber!

Brendan Casserly

Bishopstown, Cork


Thoughts for the homeless

Winter is coming our way, its frosty fingers will soon be sending shivers through the country.

These are tough times for most, but for the homeless there are no words to describe the helplessness and loneliness of a night on the street.

We should remember people like Brother Kevin and Fr McVeigh, who actually try and do something for those the State has either forgotten about or failed. Their efforts could be the difference between survival or a bleak end as the dark cold nights close in.

TG Gavin

Dalkey, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

Flu Jab

October 21, 2014

21 October 2014 Flu Jab

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day Flu Jab, Post Office, Co Op, District Nurses and Sharland

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down duck for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Sir John Hoskyns – obituary

Sir John Hoskyns was a Downing Street adviser who called Mrs Thatcher a bully and almost provoked a libel suit from Brussels

Sir John Hoskyns

Sir John Hoskyns Photo: ITN/REX

5:51PM BST 20 Oct 2014


Sir John Hoskyns, who has died aged 87, was a caustic critic of what he called “the inbred political establishment” as a senior adviser to Mrs Thatcher and, later, director-general of the Institute of Directors.

A restless man, Hoskyns never seemed able, in a career that also spanned the Army and business, to settle for more than a few years in one job. By instinct an outsider, he was least happy when forced to be part of an establishment. As a political thinker he always went for the radical option, claiming that “if you think the unthinkable, a few years later it will become the conventional wisdom”.

His period of greatest political influence was between 1979 and 1982, when, as head of the Downing Street Policy Unit, he played a major role in planning legislation to restrict the power of the trade unions. He also advised Mrs Thatcher on domestic policy, economic strategy, public sector pay and nationalised industries. Although he failed to persuade her to reverse the Clegg proposals for high public sector pay increases, he was a powerful influence in setting the critical 1981 budget, with its emphasis on lower interest rates and reduced public borrowing.

But Hoskyns had little taste for the sort of compromises that are part and parcel of political leadership and he became increasingly unhappy at Downing Street, eventually departing on less than good terms with the prime minister. He had become fed up with the ways of Whitehall and, as Charles Moore revealed in the first volume of his authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher, published last year, he had become disillusioned with her style of leadership too.

In the summer of 1981 Hoskyns wrote a blistering memo headed “Your political survival” and popped it into Mrs Thatcher’s red box before she went on holiday. Breathtakingly candid, it contained such gems as “you lack management competence… you break every rule of good man-management… you bully your weaker colleagues… You criticise colleagues in front of each other… They can’t answer back without appearing disrespectful… You abuse that situation. You give little praise or credit, and you are too ready to blame others when things go wrong.” He warned her that if she did not change she was “going the way of Ted Heath”.

Later Hoskyns said the memo had highlighted how as early as 1981 “the seeds of her downfall were being sown”, although he appeared to have reached a more nuanced view of her achievements. “Most people would acknowledge that Thatcher saved the British economy,” he conceded in 2009, “but, my God, didn’t we hate her while she was doing it.’’

John Austin Hungerford Leigh Hoskyns was born on August 23 1927 and educated at Winchester. His father, a lieutenant-colonel in the regular Army, was killed at Calais during the retreat from France in 1940, and in the last days of the Second World War young Hoskyns took an impulsive decision to leave school and enlist in the Rifle Brigade as a private.

The war finished before he saw action, but he remained in the Army, rising to the rank of captain, and did see some fighting in Kenya, which he described as “not for real”.

Eventually, frustrated by endless Nato manoeuvres, he joined IBM in 1957 as the firm was establishing a base in Britain. Seven years later he left to form his own computer company, which took advantage of the software boom.

He sold out in 1974 for £400,000 to devote himself to his developing interest in solving the problems of the nation’s decline.

Though by no means an ideological Tory — he had voted Labour on occasion — Hoskyns was introduced to Mrs Thatcher by Sir Alfred Sherman, head of the Right-wing Centre for Policy Studies, and became her adviser on trade union matters while the Conservative Party was in opposition.

Among other things he co-authored Stepping Stones, a 1977 paper which analysed the interconnected ailments of the British economy. To explain to himself the nature of Britain’s problem he constructed a “wiring diagram” of the economy’s difficulties, all of which combined in a sort of chain reaction to make each other worse. His conclusion was simple: to cure anything, it would be necessary to change everything. “It is not difficult to carry the country,” Angus Maude, the chairman of the Conservative Research Department, told him at the time. “The problem is the shadow Cabinet.”

After the Conservatives won the 1979 election, Hoskyns became head of Mrs Thatcher’s Policy Unit, but his time in Downing Street confirmed his intense dislike of the political and Whitehall establishment, which he seemed to take an almost perverse pleasure in riling. In his memoir, Just in Time (2000), he complained that civil servants could only function “by cultivating a passionless detachment, as if the processes they were engaged in were happening in a faraway country which they service only on a retainer basis”.

After resigning in April 1982 he retreated to his home in Essex, indulging his love of shooting and opera-going while loosing off periodic salvoes against the political classes, which found favour with the businessmen at the Institute of Directors, where he was appointed director-general in 1984.

The job suited Hoskyns. Unlike his counterpart at the CBI, who has to reflect the corporate consensus (Hoskyns had been considered as a candidate for that post in 1979), the director-general of the IoD is allowed far greater freedom. Rank-and-file members greeted with rapture his call for civil servants to be replaced by “politically appointed officials on contract at proper market rates”. They warmed to his constant reminders to Mrs Thatcher of the need to dismantle the corporate state and reduce the burden on business, and for the government to set a long term goal of reducing tax rates to 10 per cent.

Hoskyns earned his biggest headlines shortly before his departure from the IoD in 1989, when he launched a vitriolic attack on the EEC which, he claimed, had become a “Mafia-style laughing stock”, with expense-fiddling MEPs and Eurocrats “as self-important as the British trade union barons were in the late 1970s”. There were “signs that the Brussels machine is becoming corrupted both intellectually and financially”, and as a result the creation of the Single European Market could prove a “collectivised, protectionist, over-regulated” fiasco.

The reaction in Brussels was furious, and at one point the European Commission even threatened to sue him for libel. Hoskyns himself likened the fuss to that over Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses: “No one is allowed to criticise Europe,” he complained. “It is like criticising Islam. If anyone says anything against Europe they will be outlawed.”

Friends, however, found Hoskyns’s combative reputation difficult to reconcile with the civilised and courteous private man.

After his retirement from the IoD, Hoskyns served as chairman of the Burton Group from 1990 to 1998, of the media company Emap from 1994 to 98 and of the Arcadia Group in 1998.

He was knighted in 1982.

He married, in 1956, Miranda Mott, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.

Sir John Hoskyns, born August 23 1927, died October 20 2014


Jose Manuel Barroso speech on Europe José Manuel Barroso in London, 20 Octobe 2014, to make the case for staying in the EU. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

The European commission president, José Manuel Barroso, is right to warn that those in favour of the European Union must not expect by default to carry the day, nor should they leave presenting the positive case for EU until the last moment in a spirit of panic, as happened in Scotland (Report, 20 October).

He might also reflect that the Better Together campaign in Scotland wasn’t able to halt the significant momentum generated by the exit lobby. That only happened by external intervention: the belated acknowledgement by those outside Scotland of the core separatist concerns, irritations and resentments, together with a degree of humility in the face of a large democratic groundswell, all sweetened by the offering of substantial, significant and credible concessions. David Cameron is simply not in a position to offer these in respect of Europe, any more than Alistair Darling was in respect of Scotland.

The tone of Mr Barosso’s intervention will have a wearily familiar ring to it for those who followed the Better Together pronouncements in the early days. If lessons are indeed to be learned from the Scottish referendum, those in Brussels and Strasbourg have at least as much to reflect on as folk in London or Edinburgh.
Rev Jonathan Jennings
Gillingham, Kent

• You report that Nigel Farage welcomes José Manuel Barroso’s comments on the free movement of people within the EU because they show clearly that David Cameron’s objectives are unachievable. It seems to me, however, that Barroso’s comments are just as problematical for Ukip. Barroso was not just talking about the rules of the EU but about the rules of the single market (the “four freedoms” of movement of goods, services, capital and people). Countries currently outside the EU that participate in the single market (Norway and Switzerland) have to accept the free movement of people – as Barroso says, this is absolutely fundamental. Ukip’s position, however, is that the UK could leave the EU, continue to participate in a free market and at the same time refuse to accept the free movement of people. Barroso tells us this is just as impossible outside the EU as it is within.
Michael Matthews

• David Cameron’s demand for a halt to the free flow of EU migrants will wrongfoot both Labour and the Greens. The way out of this electoral trap is for these non-market-fundamentalist parties, who nevertheless support Europe’s free flow of people, to change course. They should make an end to uncontrollable EU immigration central to their manifestos, not because of Ukip but to show that they are truly democratic, that they want to lessen the strain on public services and to burnish their internationalist credentials.

Democratic, because all polls show that the majority of people want to see the flow of immigrants to the UK adequately controlled. The UK’s population is projected to increase by 10 million in the next 25 years. Failure to see these population pressures as making it much harder to tackle social problems insults voters’ intelligence. Finally, the present EU open borders policy is the opposite of internationalism. Romania has in recent years lost a third of its doctors to richer EU countries, and our hospitals scour poor EU countries to fill the gap in our inadequately resourced NHS.
Colin Hines
Twickenham, Middlesex

• The claim that migrants are net contributors to the public purse is demography’s equivalent of off-balance-sheet financing, for today’s young migrants will become tomorrow’s old and infirm (Editorial, 17 October). A similar claim that newcomers will do society’s menial jobs is like a Ponzi scheme, for increasing numbers of unskilled immigrants will be needed as the offspring of today’s unskilled immigrants shun menial jobs offering less than a living wage.

Then there is the claim that national debt will become unmanageable without mass immigration, yet the recent ballooning of national debt coincided with an unprecedented influx of migrants.

It was morally wrong to import cheap labour with the aim of driving down unskilled wages. Reversing the process by controlling immigration from within an ever-expanding EU will result in a transfer of purchasing power from the haves to the have-nots, as menial jobs that cannot be outsourced abroad become more costly. This is a small price to pay for anyone concerned about national cohesiveness and a living wage.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

• Your otherwise admirably balanced editorial column overlooks one of the wider implications of immigration for the UK – that of food security. England was already one of the most densely populated countries in the developed world before the arrival of large numbers of European immigrants. The increase in the number of people and the diminishing supply of agricultural land means that our dependence on food imports is growing. This makes us vulnerable to the vagaries of international commodity markets, a situation exacerbated by the growth in world population and the adoption of western dietary habits by recently industrialised countries such as China and India. The laws of supply and demand indicate that the cost of food imports will inevitably rise, with possible ramifications for social cohesion. And in the event of future international instability our supply of imported food could be threatened altogether, with wholly unpredictable consequences. Policymakers need to embark on strategy to limit the UK’s population and increase the supply of agricultural land. The first step is to regain control of who can enter the country by withdrawing from the EU.
Terence Glover
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire

• The free movement of labour made sense when the EU membership was restricted to the west European countries. Would Poland, Bulgaria and Romania have joined if there was no free movement of labour option available? Would Ukraine, Georgia and Moldavia, which recently signed on the dotted line, still be interested if the clause pertaining to free movement of labour was removed from the Lisbon treaty?
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex

• Citizens of EU countries are entitled to each others’ social systems when living and working there. We all have some sort of national insurance that people pay into in their countries and this entitles us to use theirs and them to use ours. Admittedly, what is available varies according to the wealth of the country, but Holland, Sweden and France, for instance, have more generous systems than ours. We should not blame immigrants for the fact that successive British governments for the past 30 years have failed socially on many fronts, particularly housing.
Katerina Porter

• There are estimated to be up to two million UK citizens living in the EU but outside UK. It is reasonable to assume that if the UK leaves the EU, the position of these citizens will be adversely affected. As a minimum, by loss of access to healthcare, and perhaps through difficulty in obtaining work permits, and even elderly people needing to repatriate.
Martin Ray
Banbury, Oxfordshire

• If fruit pickers from Romania are not to be allowed to work in the UK (Conservative backs Ukip view, 17 October), who will pick the fruit? British workers certainly don’t and won’t.
Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

You report (Watchdog to pursue inquiry into sex sting against MP Brooks Newmark, 20 October) that one of the MPs targeted by the Sunday Mirror’s freelance journalists in the online “sexting” sting, Mark Pritchard, has withdrawn his complaint against the Sunday Mirror. The details of the “amicable settlement” are said to be confidential. The Independent Press Standards Organisation says “we would be pleased if it were the case that resolution has been achieved, since that would be a success for the Ipso complaints process”.

We should be concerned when a newspaper makes a secret deal with an MP (possibly involving a financial settlement or the offer of future good publicity) behind the back of the regulator. We should be especially concerned if the result of the secret deal is that the MP drops his complaint, possibly preventing the regulator getting the full truth. If the regulator considers that a regulatory “success”, then the main difference between the new sham regulator Ipso and the failed and toothless PCC, which it replaced, is now clear. Ipso, it seems, is rather more desperate in both its propaganda and spin operation.
Joan Smith
Executive editor, Hacked Off

• You report (20 October) that internet trolls will face two years in jail under Chris Grayling’s new plans. How will “internet troll” be defined? As a person who makes any comment which offends anyone? An ordinary person who “shouts” to be heard in a conversation dominated by famous or influential people? Social media should be available for the use of all society, not just its upper echelon. Of course, if someone makes a credible threat of violence against another person, that should be prosecuted through existing laws. But the proposed new laws imply that social media will be limited to well-known and powerful people giving us their view of the world (and promoting their latest product, film, etc), while the rest of us can only “follow” our favourites.

We would be powerless to tell Russell Brand or Jeremy Clarkson or Polly Toynbee what we really thought of them, because of the inevitable offence caused. By posting a message saying “I bought your book but didn’t like it”, an ordinary person would not be heard. By posting a message saying “I spent eight hours of my life reading your faeces recycled as paper. I am going to torture you for eight hours in return”, that same person will be noticed, but will be banged up for two years for being offensive and threatening (even though it is obvious that the threat is not credible).
Dominic Rayner

Guide dog. Allowed in Tesco: guide dogs. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

In your report (18 October) that Tesco at Swiss Cottage had refused entry to a woman with a guide dog, a Tesco spokesperson says: “We do allow guide dogs in stores.” Someone should alert Tesco that they do not “allow” guide dogs; they are required by law to facilitate anyone with a guide dog while that dog is on duty. (Though not if it is out of harness.) Too many restaurants, shops, taxis and pubs think they are doing someone a favour if they allow in a guide dog, whereas the truth is they can be subject to a fine if they refuse. Having said that, a friend who is blind, knowing I was going to write this letter, wants me to point out that in the Tesco at Turnpike Lane the staff go out of their way to help her, and go soppy over her dog.
Francis Blake

Smethwick council house building The Council House, Smethwick, West Midlands. Photograph: Alamy

Stuart Jeffries (The most racist election campaign ever fought in Britain, G2, 15 October) does a disservice to Smethwick, the town where I grew up. The Conservative candidate’s campaign in 1964 was vile, but the remote and patrician Patrick Gordon Walker did not lose the seat for Labour because the electors suddenly went racist. He lost because a Liberal candidate intervened and took more votes from Labour than from the Conservatives. Indeed, the Conservative vote actually went down, despite a higher turnout. Such racist activity as there was at that time was largely carried out by neo-Nazi agitators from surrounding areas.
Emeritus professor Keith Graham
Bristol University

• I was 10 in 1964. I remember racist Tory MP Peter Griffiths’s victory tour stopping outside our council house. Stuart Jeffries catches the flavour of a time when casual and overt racism was ingrained in many Britons. However, he underplays the role of the white working-class Labour activists (like my father, Ron, a Smethwick councillor from 1966) who, working with people of goodwill from all races, helped rescue Smethwick from the racists. There is also no tribute paid to Andrew Faulds, the MP to 1997, who defeated Griffiths in the 1966 election. Faulds was uncompromisingly anti-racist and his campaign and victory put Smethwick on course to a wiser, more inclusive politics.

As we know from UKIP’s rise, 50 years on, the context and language changes, but these are battles we still need to fight.
Cllr Phil Davis

• Peter Griffiths ran a racist campaign but, leafletting for Labour, the complaint I heard was of Harold Wilson assuming Smethwick was a safe seat for Patrick Gordon Walker as he wanted him for his cabinet and ignoring more local candidates. Only two years later Labour won back Smethwick with Andrew Faulds and it has remained Labour since, with both Faulds and later John Spellar bucking the trend through majority Tory governments.
Rob Morrish
Oldbury, West Midlands

Souk, in Marrakesh, Morocco Marrakesh, Morocco. Photograph: Alamy

I can only feel sympathy and solidarity with Ray Cole and his partner (Report, 17 October). It must have been a horrific and frightening experience. But as an openly gay man who has travelled more than 20 times to Morocco in the last decade (often with my partner), it seems useful to make some things clear to other lesbian and gay travellers. 1) Male homosexuality is, theoretically, illegal in Morocco. However, the law is not imposed frequently. 2) Homosexuality is an accepted part of Moroccan culture and has been for centuries. Most ordinary people are not hostile if you respect local customs (discretion, not pursuing underage boys etc). In addition, extreme Islamism is very rare in Morocco. 3) The whole state apparatus in Morocco has problems with corruption. This means that officials, including police, can act for personal motives – of power, money or religion – without much regard for legal niceties. I have mostly found warm and open acceptance from ordinary Moroccan people as a gay man. Indeed, sometimes I have been pleasantly surprised: such as when the Moroccan-owned riad where we stay upgraded us to the best suite of rooms for free, on hearing that we had just had a civil partnership. So, I think the best advice is to be streetwise: bear in mind you are in a Muslim country where homosexuality is, at least in theory, illegal. Get to know the local people and their views (some places are much more religious than others). In most cases, I believe that you will have a friendly and relaxed experience.
Patrick Baker
Lecturer in Politics, Goldsmiths, London


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (20 October) is probably right that Russell Brand is a “dilettante”. But he challenges the status quo and stands up for those who are on its sharp end, like the young mothers in Newham.

So he strikes a chord with tens of thousands of young – and older – people. Does anyone think that a book by Ed Miliband, who can’t even bring himself to support strike action by teachers or nurses, would fly off the shelves like Revolution is doing?

Alibhai-Brown is appalled that Brand won’t vote. Yet we all know that millions will abstain in the general election next year. Why? Because there is nothing to choose between the policies of three, now four, pro-big-business parties.

We need a party for the men and women who aren’t part of the corporate elite, a party for trade unionists, NHS users, pensioners, the low-paid, immigrants and young people who need decent jobs and homes. When there’s a real choice, and a chance to make a difference, you’ll get high turnouts, as we saw in Scotland’s referendum.

Nobody I know is sitting around “awaiting the revolution”. We’re defending services, fighting cuts, striking for a living wage, standing in elections as anti-cuts candidates for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), offering people an alternative. We got 10 per cent in Salford last year. If we had PR we’d have a councillor or two.

Alibhai-Brown’s “institutional overhaul” of Parliament won’t bring them flocking to the polling stations – but a clear stand and a socialist alternative is like a breath of fresh air for the disenfranchised.

Paul Gerrard

Chair, Salford against Cuts, Manchester

Edward Collier (letter, 17 October) asks: “In what parallel universe is it fair that it takes 33,000 votes to return one Labour MP and 120,000 for a Lib Dem and 285,000 for a Green?” It was the system that delivers this inequity that a large majority of people actually voted for in a referendum.

I personally regret that decision, but I accept that it is the democratic will of our people, expressed in a referendum where every vote was equal.

Pete Rowberry

Saxmundham, Suffolk


Freudian slip raises a real question

There is something desperate about Ed Miliband’s outrage over Lord Freud’s case of foot-in-mouth.

He must know that this is not an issue that can be just harrumphed away. As a society, we have to look at the situation honestly. Nobody should be discriminated against, but if we want disabled people to participate in economic activity, we have to recognise that they cannot make the same contribution as an able-bodied person. It’s a big ask to expect an employer to take on a disabled person at the same wage as an able-bodied person.

The solution is for the welfare system to make up the difference. Such a policy would be perfectly acceptable to disabled people, and less of a burden on the Treasury than paying a full disability allowance.

What’s astonishing is that the Government doesn’t seem to see that – and David Cameron couldn’t spot a prime opportunity to steal Ed Miliband’s thunder.

Simon Prentis



A huge concern making billions can reasonably be expected to employ a proportion of disabled people at its own expense. A smaller outfit could be damaged by having an employee who, through no fault of their own, was less than optimally productive; in such a case it could be to the benefit of the firm, the disabled employee and society at large for the taxpayer to contribute towards their payment.

That was possibly the point that Lord Freud was trying to make. But he made it badly, and should not be a spokesman for that reason.

He may, however, have done us all a service in raising the issue of “worth”. It could be said that no one is worth more than, say, 20 times the living wage. But many are paid vastly more than that and it is their worth that needs to be challenged.

Susan Alexander

Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

The welfare minister claimed some disabled people are not worth the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour and that he’d think about how those unfortunates who might wish to work for £2 an hour might be helped to do so.

A Freudian slip or another Tory “reform” in the offing? The mindset of this divided old political party – the oldest in Europe – is as revolting as it is revealing towards the end of this parliament, no matter how artfully disguised at the beginning.

They’re out of touch, out of time –and out of here soon if there’s to be any fairness at all about politics.

John Haran

Leigh-on-Sea, Essex


Theatre of the absurd

I warmly applaud Adrian Hamilton’s article on the current theatrical fashion to rewrite or traduce plays that are part of the European classical canon (15 October). However, he omitted to mention the mauling British dramatists have received at such hands.

In a recent National Theatre production of what was claimed to be Marlowe’s Edward II the audience was greeted with a cast dressed in bomber jackets, all smoking furiously and constantly on mobile phones. Scenes were added that are not in the Marlowe text and much that is was omitted.

The nadir of this production, to me, was the scene where Edward’s court celebrated his Pyrrhic victory over the barons by waving plastic swords and dancing the hokey-cokey accompanied by an electric keyboard player on stage.

I certainly do not wish for museum theatre, but production companies must be more honest with theatre-goers. They should announce that this is Ms X’s or Mr Y’s version of Oedipus, Medea or Edward II and omit the names of Sophocles, Euripides or Marlowe from their publicity. But that might not generate the same ticket sales.

Dr Mick Morris

Hamilton, Lanarkshire


For the second time in recent months I have walked out of a London theatre because of a play’s continuous and unnecessary foul language.

Needless to say I was denied a refund of my ticket price. As I bought my ticket at the box office just before the start of the matinee performance I could not have been aware of the vile content.

Have other theatre goers also been caught out like this, and is it not time all prospective audiences were warned about such disgusting content? In future I will check before buying tickets, assuming I ever consider risking attending another London theatre venue.

Adrian Appley

Bromley, Kent


John Walsh is quite right in advocating the abolition of tiresome theatre intervals (16 October). However, I would request one exception – the Royal Opera House.

Much of the seating at this ludicrously expensive venue is unfit for humans (battery chickens spring to mind) and 30 minutes is about all I can bear on the rare occasions that I find myself being “entertained” there.

David Bracey

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire


Now, the three-day passport

Beverley Southgate (letter, 9 October) lavished well-deserved praise on the Passport Office after receiving her passport five working days after applying.

Who can beat this? I applied for my passport renewal on 6 October and received my new one on 9 October – after three working days! My congratulations to both the Passport Office and the Post Office.

Whatever new brooms, prunings or decapitations were necessary to achieve such high standards of public service efficiency, pray that they may soon be mobilised to thin out the dead wood in our NHS.

Ben Marshall

London N11


Housing help for the super-rich

Labour proposes a “mansion tax”. This will tax out middle-class Londoners who bought their houses more than 30 years ago and are now coming into retirement on modest pensions. How will that benefit any housing crisis other than that of the very wealthy wanting central London properties?

When the middle classes got driven out of Manhattan in the 1980s it became a ghetto for the super-rich and a once thriving and diverse cultural scene has been reduced to fighting for the best opera seats and to-be-seen-in restaurants.

Stephane Duckett

London SEII


Ebola or not, we need Heathrow

Nigel Long (letter, 16 October) moves away from a sensible discussion about Ebola to confuse the debate about Heathrow.

It is not airline and airport operator profits driving the need for growth but the long-term interests of current and future generations who will be affected by a decline in our international standing if Heathrow’s hub status is allowed to decline further.

Simon King

Twickenham, Middlesex


Is Ed Miliband’s new pledge designed simply to achieve the greatest vote-winning impact?

Sir, The two-week pathway for urgent referrals is well established in the NHS and is working well (“Miliband promises 7-day test for cancer”, Oct 18). A plethora of “red flag” symptoms include a breast lump, and blood in urine, stool or sputum. Cancer is detected in less than 10 per cent of patients referred, and there is no evidence of improved survival.

Changing from a 14-day to a 7-day referral pathway is an opportunistic and naive gimmick that reveals a lack of understanding. No cancer goes from curable to incurable in seven days. Early diagnosis will only contribute to improved survival if cancer is detected at an earlier stage. This can only be achieved by screening asymptomatic patients, as happens now with breast and colo-rectum cases.

Professor J Meirion Thomas, FRCS
London SW3

Sir, Cancer comprises thousands of individual diseases affecting virtually every part of the body. Each presents and is diagnosed in its own way by applying disease-specific testing which can vary from quick and simple to long and complex. It will therefore be impossible for Labour to fulfil its pledge of guaranteeing every suspected cancer case is diagnosed within a week.

What the NHS will be able to achieve, with new funding, is to increase the overall rate of cancer detection by concentrating on simple tests for common cancers.

Conclusion: Labour’s pledge has deliberately been spun from the specific to the general for greatest vote-winning impact.

Dr Gordon Brooks
Gosport, Hants

Sir, Instead of pledging a seven-day test for cancer in order to increase his popularity before the next election, Ed Miliband and the other party-political leaders should concentrate on explaining how the huge funding gap for the NHS will be addressed.

While working unpaid as a medical examiner for the Royal College of Physicians last weekend at a hospital in another part of the country, I witnessed a further example of the resource-starved NHS. In two of the rooms where the postgraduate examinations were conducted I saw cracks in the walls that were wide enough to see and hear what was happening in the next room. We need the assurance of our government that the necessary increase in funds will be identified to meet the increasing demands for safe and effective healthcare while removing the pay freeze for NHS staff.

Dr Peter Phillips
Consultant Physician
Ipswich, Suffolk

Sir, It is absurd for the political parties to conduct a bidding war for new untested ‘targets’ for the already overburdened NHS. Health service managers should not be forced to chase topical targets at the expense of the health needs of individuals. A cultural rather than an organisational change to an integrated person-centred approach is overdue in the NHS, where real savings can be made and the needs of the individual person can properly addressed.

James Appleyard, FRCP
President, International College of Person Centred Medicine, New York

Many parents will not have the means to start saving for university from the birth of their child

Sir, There are two significant flaws in the idea that “children should start saving for university at birth” (Oct 20). First, it is likely that the vast majority of parents who did not themselves go to university will not see the need set up a saving account (let alone fund it). Second, for most parents the costs of bringing up their children often means that they are financially challenged, and would not be able to fund the account.

There is a need for debate on how a university education should be funded, but this is not the solution.

Alistair Nicoll


What matters more than homosexuality to ordinary Catholics is the Church’s stance on divorcees

Sir, There has been a predictable concentration on the Pope’s humanity towards homosexuals in the face of huge hostility in some parts of the world (“When in Rome, think of gay people in Iran”, Libby Purves, Opinion, Oct 20, and World, Oct 20).

What matters more to the ordinary Catholic in the pew is the position of divorced Catholics, which was also discussed by the Vatican synod. A person who has been divorced, whether willingly or not, is denied the Sacraments. I know people who faithfully come to church each Sunday but may not receive Holy Communion because of their status. People who bring up their children as Catholics, take them to church and send them to Catholic schools, are treated as outcasts cut off from the healing grace of the Eucharist.

Not such a great headline-grabber perhaps, but a source of great pain to many families throughout the land.

Anne Crew

Dundraw, Cumbria

Sir, It was not a surprise that Pope Francis’s progressive proposals on gays and divorcees were rejected, as the vast majority of the bishops voting were appointed by his arch-conservative predecessors John Paul and Benedict. Even if the issue is revisited next year, this will remain the case.

George Healy

London N16

Sir, Can Vincent Nichols really not remember how he voted a few days ago at a Vatican synod on the attitude of the church towards gay people (News, Oct 20)? Such amnesia is understandable in a politician, football manager or used-car salesman, but not in a cardinal.

Frank Greaney

Formby, Liverpool

Converting cruise ships is not the answer. The offshore oil and gas industry may offer a solution

Sir, I disagree with Nicholas Messinger (letter, Oct 18) that cruise ships should be turned into West Africa hospital ships. These ships have vast public spaces which would be of little use and would later be seen as plague ships, and thus prove unusable for the role for which they were designed.

The offshore oil and gas industry has a number of accommodation vessels of various kinds. These include large pontoon-type barges, jack-up and semi-submersible accommodation rigs and elderly but serviceable converted passenger ships. They can be swiftly transported to site on the decks of semi-submersible heavy lift ships, a number of which are owned in the Netherlands.

Peter Adams (master mariner)

Lambley, Notts

Sir, My surgical colleague Wylie Gibbs (letter, Oct 18) suggests copper-impregnated surgical gowns to reduce ebola virus risk because they are bactericidal. We physicians know that bactericidal is not necessarily viricidal. Antibiotics are a case in point.

Giles Youngs, FRCP

Drinkstone, Suffolk

How the Treason Act has been deployed since its enactment in 1351 offers significant food for thought

Sir, Further to your report “Jihadists threatened with trials for treason” (Oct 17), it is true that wielding the 1351 treason law would be a legal sledgehammer. But it is not a wholly obsolete idea. The treason law was employed well into the 20th century, notably in the cases of Roger Casement and William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) when both were charged with adhering to the king’s enemies. The case against Joyce, cleverly manipulated in 1946 to secure a conviction, was precisely based on the fact that he had used a British passport and therefore owed allegiance to the state in return for state protection.

Under the 1351 Act, the British jihadists might also be guilty of “levying war” and of “compassing the Queen’s death” by threating to attack the British state. But it is the precedent from the Joyce case which gives most food for thought. It makes us analyse what loyalty is really owed to the state by each citizen, and how best to police that loyalty to ensure the security of the whole community.

Mark Cornwall

Professor of modern European history, University of Southampton


Ripe for poaching: damsons on branches Photo: Alamy

6:55AM BST 20 Oct 2014


SIR – John H Stephen shouldn’t waste his damsons on gin: they make the most wonderful wine.

Mulled with spices and a dash of brandy and then warmed up, it is the one thing guaranteed to bring our children from the four corners of the world home for Christmas.

Ian Macleod
Whitchurch, Shropshire.

SIR – In the search for an autumn tipple, may I refer Mr Stephen to a letter from a Rosie Macdonald of Bury St Edmunds five years back, which is pasted into my recipe book. Damson vodka has a cleaner taste, is excellent in a hip flask or with champagne, and easier to make than damson jam.

I converted Granny Streat’s sloe gin recipe and it seems to work: half a bottle of vodka, filled to the three-quarter mark with granulated sugar and to the top with damsons (pricked with a silver fork), plus a drop or two of almond essence. I’ll leave you to work out how to get large damsons into the neck of your average vodka bottle. Lay the bottles on their side and rotate daily until the sugar is dissolved.

Caroline Streat
Lymington, Hampshire

SIR – My suggestion for an alternative to sloe gin is “brisky” (bramble whisky). Just substitute blackberries for the sloes and whisky for gin. Keep for several months and then imbibe.

Jenny Clarke
Wittersham, Kent

SIR – Damson gin is fine; damson vodka is better. Raspberry whisky is better still.

My favourite tipple involves 1lb marmalade (preferably home-made), one bottle of gin and a quarter-pound of sugar, kept warm for two weeks and drunk after three months. It’ll blow your socks off.

David Davies
Welshpool, Montgomeryshire

Photo: ALAMY

6:56AM BST 20 Oct 2014


SIR – I am often bemused at the level of opposition to inheritance tax. The tax, and its forerunner, death duties, are historically more responsible than any other single activity for enabling the middle classes to own their own home.

When I was a solicitor I became aware of many large landholdings formerly owned by one person that had been sold in the Twenties to pay death duties, allowing for several hundred houses to be built on that land. I am now a vicar in a village that was entirely owned by the Lord of the Manor until death duties led to sales. Now the great majority of the houses are owned by their occupiers.

Any society that lays claim to be more than just the sum of its individuals has a moral duty to ensure some redistribution, while respecting the right of individuals to accumulate wealth. Inheritance tax is a key tool in maintaining that balance.

Revd Peter Dyson
Upton Grey, Hampshire

GPs’ weekend pay

SIR – It used to be accepted that professionals did not have fixed hours of work, and that their pay reflected that. Now we learn that doctors are being paid £100 per hour to work at weekends.

My wife is a deputy head teacher at a secondary school, and she is certainly paid less than doctors. Yet she is at her school for 11 hours a day on “normal” days – that is, unless there are one of many imperative reasons to stay late, such as governors’ or parents’ meetings. She frequently does not get to bed before midnight, and although she has Saturdays for recreation, she works on Sunday evenings preparing for the next week.

How can it be fair that doctors are given these fantastic sums to work “out of hours”, and how are such hours agreed?

Roger Strong
Orpington, Kent

The scourge of Africa

SIR – Fraser Nelson is absolutely right in pointing out that malaria is a terrible scourge in Africa, as it is in several Third World tropical countries.

One aggravating factor behind this in recent years has been the widespread use of plastic carrier bags. Discarded in their thousands, these bags easily fill with rainwater, whereupon they can act as a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying the malaria virus.

Ted Shorter
Tonbridge, Kent

First-name terms

SIR – I have just spent much of last week interviewing eager souls for positions in our company. All were intelligent and qualified, yet every one of them insisted on the regular use of my first name: “Well, that’s a very good point, Steve”; and “If I may answer that, Steve.”

I subscribe to the joys of equality and bonding, but am I wrong to find this somewhat disrespectful, and how do I politely encourage them to desist?

Steve Baldock
Handcross, West Sussex

Hands to the sky

SIR – Watching the extravagant arm movements of the weather person on ITV yesterday, I have no idea what to expect from the skies over the coming days. But I’m certain that there must be a corps de ballet out there short of a Dying Swan.

Felicity Foulis Brown
Bramley, Hampshire

It is unfair to persecute dogs for canine behaviour like growling at the postman

Elke Vogelsang's dog portraiture

‘Expecting a dog never to bark when playing is like expecting a cat not to miaow ‘ Photo: © Elke Vogelsang

6:58AM BST 20 Oct 2014


SIR – The “dogbo” order to be placed on owners’ dogs who bark or growl at the postman and other passers-by has its priorities wrong.

Expecting a dog never to bark when playing is like expecting a cat not to miaow or a child never to yell. Also, a dog can bark when it feels frightened by aggressive behaviour – someone shouting or waving a stick at it, for instance.

Sophie Palmer
Twickenham, Middlesex

SIR – If a dog that chases a cat can get a “dogbo”, what about a cat that kills a bird? Georgie Helyer
Hanging Langford, Wiltshire

Slow past Stonehenge

SIR – As a regular user of the A303, I am surprised to see that the Government is about to approve plans for a tunnel to ease the bottlenecks caused by “drivers slowing down to admire the prehistoric monument” (report, October 18).

While there is no doubt that drivers are slowing down, the cause is not the proximity of Stonehenge, but the reduction of the A303 westbound from dual carriageway to single lane shortly after Amesbury. Only when the A303 is upgraded to dual carriageway for its entire length will the bottleneck be resolved.

Andrew Atkins
Dorking, Surrey

Outsourcing idleness

SIR – Peter Mahaffey may be assured that plenty of workers will be available for any task if no alternative income is provided from state subsidies.

It is not relevant that immigrants from other European states will do the work: we cannot afford to outsource it and at the same time pay our own for idleness.

Andrew Smith
Epping, Essex

Dig for remembrance

SIR – With the approach of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on June 18 next year, I plan to plant a spinney to commemorate that great victory.

In addition to some Wellingtonias, I wonder if your readers have any other suggestions for suitable species? Given our changing climate, trees that thrive in mid France may be best.

WHG Warmington
Taunton, Somerset

While Ruskin regarded Oxford as a ‘temple of Apollo’, he was less kind about its alleys

Brasenose Lane street sign, Oxford University, Oxfordshire, England

Brasenose Lane: Love and loathing in the back alleys of Oxford Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 20 Oct 2014


SIR – Michael Henderson describes being subject to a revelation of beauty looking down Brasenose Lane from the Radcliffe Camera.

He’s not the only person to have had a vivid experience there. When John Ruskin gave his Slade Lecture, “The Relation to Art of the Science of Light”, in 1872, he told his audience about a negative epiphany in the same place.

The university he regarded as the “temple of Apollo”; but, he said, “in the centre of that temple, at the very foot of the dome of the Radclyffe, between two principal colleges, the lane by which I walked from my own college half an hour ago to this place – Brasen-nose Lane – is left in a state as loathsome as a back alley in the East end of London.”

Bernard Richards
Brasenose College, Oxford

Just how secure is Britain’s future within the EU? Photo: AFP/Getty Images

7:00AM BST 20 Oct 2014


SIR – The Prime Minister’s avowed intention to take back powers from the EU, specifically the power to control immigration from Europe, seems like an attempt to match Ukip’s policy in the light of that party’s recent successes.

Mr Cameron’s approach will be popular and might well lead, if his demand is unsuccessful, to Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. But is it really good government to have such a momentous decision depend on a single issue such as immigration? I don’t know how I would cast my vote in any referendum, but I would not want the debate to focus on just one factor.

GH Jones
Bangor, Caernarvonshire

SIR – When he was in opposition, Philip Hammond, my local MP, assured me that he too was a Eurosceptic.

I reminded him of this when he was promoted to the opposition front bench, because David Cameron had made it clear he had no use for Eurosceptics, and much to my surprise Mr Hammond had a change of heart.

Now, as Foreign Secretary, he talks of lighting a fire under the EU. The problem is that Brussels will soon extinguish it.

Edward Huxley
Thorpe, Surrey

SIR – The Foreign Secretary’s assertion about “lighting a fire” under Europe is about as convincing a statement as making a bonfire of the quangos.

We know what the outcome was there.

Ron Burton
Loughborough, Leicestershire

SIR – Mr Hammond states that the EU has morphed “into a putative superstate”.

What he and many other politicians fail to understand that this is, and always has been, the objective of the EU.

If we are granted our referendum and vote to leave the EU, I fear that a further Act of Parliament may be required when we are ordered by Brussels to vote again and make certain that we produce the “right” result next time. Perhaps suitable provision should be made for this in the present Bill.

Michael Morris
Haverhill, Suffolk

SIR – Your correspondent Ambrose Evans-Pritchard highlights the disaster that is the French economy, propped up by Germany’s use of the euro.

No one seems to think that Mr Cameron can reverse any worthwhile treaty regulations, but he persists in his view that only by voting Conservative will a referendum be guaranteed.

Now that claim is in jeopardy. If Ukip manages to win several seats from both Labour and the Conservatives, it could just hold the balance of power.

Then the way to let Labour’s Ed Miliband in will be to vote Conservative.

A T Brookes
Charlwood, Surrey

Irish Times:

A chara, – When any group takes unto itself, without reference to objective moral norms or without legal authority, the role of being arbiter of right and wrong for its community, there is the ultimate inevitably of mayhem, brutality and murder. That sad reality is gradually becoming ever more clear in relation to the activities for over 30 years of the Provisional IRA and its fellow travellers in Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland of the Troubles.

The Provisionals established their ghettos and took upon themselves the right to determine how each person should behave and to whom they should be answerable. Failure by any person to comply with the wishes of the self-appointed bosses led to beatings, knee- cappings, tarring and feathering and ultimately to brutal murders. Much of this was given the gloss of being in defence of a beleaguered people. The reality is that the principal victims of those 30 years of mayhem were members of the nationalist community.

Some of the savagery was clothed with words that gave a veneer of respectability. Thus for all too long we have heard of the “Disappeared”, as if they walked voluntarily into the setting sun.

The cruel truth is that they were kidnapped, brutalised, shot and callously buried in lonely bogs far from home and loved ones.

Maíria Cahill’s terrible story of being raped and arrogantly interrogated is another manifestation of the reality that has for too long remained hidden. It is high time that we all treated with great caution those who make great play of their new- found love for freedom and democracy. – Is mise,



Co Kerry.

Sir, – Mary Lou McDonald repeatedly uses the word “decency” when she is attacking her political opponents. In shrill tones she prefaces her lecturers with, “if you had any decency”. It would be helpful if she now looked in the mirror and spoke those words. – Yours, etc,



Co Tipperary.

Sir, – Sinn Féin has come up with such excuses as it did not realise the seriousness of if it at the time, it did not know where to go, and it did not know what to do. But it dealt with it in its own way. Where did I hear that before? From the Catholic Church, which often just moved abusers around. Sinn Féin-types did the same, but with expulsions and sometimes shootings. Canon law and cannon law? –Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.

Sir, – Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty, has said there is no cover-up in Sinn Féin, while the party’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, said at the weekend that she believed Ms Cahill had been abused, but described her allegations that members of Sinn Féin covered up child abuse as “completely wrong”.

I find it extraordinary that two of the youngest senior members of Sinn Féin can speak with such authority about IRA matters which took place between 1997 and 2000. Pearse Doherty was little more than a boy when he joined Sinn Féin in 1996 and Mary Lou McDonald was a member of Fianna Fáil before joining Sinn Féin in 1998. Are we expected to believe that the IRA’s kangaroo courts documented their secret “deliberations” for open filing at Sinn Fein’s head office? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – Politicians, as we know, are masters of euphemism – but your front page quote from Gerry Adams’s blog takes the biscuit. He admits that “the IRA on occasion shot alleged sex offenders” [my emphasis] and he goes on to say that this “was not appropriate”! Surely a most inappropriate use of the word “appropriate”. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 13.

Sir, – In the past few years we have become accustomed to seeing Mary Lou McDonald’s terrier-like stance on the Public Accounts Committee. She has been to the fore as an inquisitor. She has left no stone unturned to get to the truth. I believe Ms McDonald needs to use these skills to question her party leader on the Maíria Cahill allegations. – Yours , etc,



Co Wexford.

A chara, – I note Sinn Féin’s policy of “deny, deny, deny” is alive and kicking. – Is mise,



Co Mayo.

Sir, – Fr Vincent Twomey writes, “Sad to say, the synod’s (now not-so-hidden) agenda feeds into a bigger agenda, which is that of a secular society which threatens the traditional family to its very foundations” (“Synod feeds secular agenda hostile to traditional family”, Opinion & Analysis, October 18th).

How extraordinary to hear a celibate express concern for the “traditional family”!

There are many kinds of families. For example, a same-sex couple who have adopted a child is a family, not a “traditional family” to be sure, but a family nonetheless.

On the other hand, Fr Twomey has made no contribution to the creation of a family, traditional or otherwise.

If anything “threatens the traditional family to its very foundations”, surely it is celibacy.

Fr Twomey need have no fear for the family, for all successful families are based on love, not on tradition, unless love be the tradition.

And since love comes from God, as Fr Twomey’s church teaches, then as long as God exists, so too will successful families. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – Rev Dr Vincent Twomey claims “he is sad to say the synod’s agenda feeds into a bigger agenda, which is that of a secular society”. But as a “faithful Catholic” too, I think the agenda may actually be the result of enlightened leaders within the church reviewing its teaching with an up-to-date understanding of human nature and an appreciation that gay, separated, or divorced persons in committed and loving relationships should be fully welcomed within the Catholic Church. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – On the weekend that the synod of bishops in Rome were reluctant to provide a welcome for gays, lesbians, etc, a Catholic priest sues his former male partner for a share of a house they cohabited in.

Mixed messages indeed. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – We learned in The Irish Times of October 18th what the prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signatura, the prefect of the Papal Household of Pope Francis and the private secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict had to say regarding various church laws. Surely the very Christian priests and nuns, who live out among the real people, would be much better qualified to say what Jesus Christ might think. Jesus, unlike the above, had no fancy title. – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.

Sir, – The traditionalists’ warped view of Catholic beliefs has disturbingly held sway at the recent synod. They cling to outdated traditions, traditions which did not, do not and never will form part of the church’s core beliefs. Pope Francis has given hope to many Catholics that the much-needed change to these traditions is close at hand. The moment has now arrived for him to lead and transform. – Yours, etc,


Tai Tam, Hong Kong.

Sir, – It would be nice to think that the Holy Spirit is constantly at the side of Prof Twomey and his fellow Ionians as they trouble themselves so assiduously with our lack of holiness.

But maybe the Holy Spirit has other plans. Who knows? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – I am a 73-year-old father and grandfather who would claim to be both a practising and obedient member of the Catholic Church. At my age, most of the issues for members of the church about marriage and sexual practices have a feeling of personal remoteness, and I can almost rest content to hope and pray that the church’s leaders will be enlightened and empowered by the Holy Spirit in all of its responses to its members’ needs or questions.

Dr Twomey believes that the preparation for and summoning of this synod (and certainly its interim report) are only causing confusion about “pastoral situations already causing havoc for people” – including those “clinging by their finger tips”. For some that may indeed be so but for me and, I am sure, many like me, his article only brings to the fore once again what, to my mind, is the single greatest dilemma for the modern church regarding a large proportion of its currently baptised membership – the use of artificial contraception by Catholic married couples for planning their families.

While these men and women do not (yet) aspire to the “holiness” of teaching emanating from Humanae Vitae such as Theology of the Body by John Paul II, they also do not (in their own conscience) regard their family-oriented and sexually faithful lives, in such regard, to be “gravely sinful”. Yet in such circumstance, it seems, John Paul has stated in his brilliant if erudite book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, when dealing with the necessity of the church for salvation, that members of the church “who do not persist in charity, even if they remain in the Church in ‘body’ but not in ‘heart’, cannot be saved”.

If we accept, as I feel we must, that these ordinary men and women will not soon, if ever, be persuaded that what they are doing is very wrong (or at all), and given as Dr Twomey seems to admit, that the better way has hardly ever been adequately preached from the pulpit (and also that many of them participate in the preparation of their children for first holy communion), I sincerely wonder if Dr Twomey and those who feel as strongly, might not yet hope that some sincere but realistic way could be found to include them in a meaningful way in the sacramental (and sanctifying) life of the church.

Or, if this hope be simplistic, what exactly should the church and its evangelical members be saying to these people and with what words should they be invited and encouraged, from where they are at, to renew their faithful membership. – Yours, etc,


Clane, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Irish Water is out of its depth. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 9.

Sir, – Was this bonus business taken into account when calculating the average water charge?

Can the Taoiseach now quantify for us how much we all will be paying, on average, to cover the cost of these bonuses?

I don’t mind paying for a water supply but I strongly object to having to pay for bungling and featherbedding. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – So people on the Rental Accommodation Scheme are to be threatened with eviction for not paying water charges and inevitable call-out fees they can’t afford? That’s another 36,000-plus votes not going to the Government in the next general election. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The new water tax is not just about the supply and disposal of public water but is yet another Government-supplied gravy train for private individuals. Why are these people to be paid annual bonuses? Why isn’t every working man and woman on similar payouts? Because employers can’t afford them, that’s why. As a taxpayer I cannot afford to pay either the salaries or the bonuses of the new Irish Water staff. That’s that sorted then. – Yours, etc,



Co Cavan.

Sir, – Bonuses for doing what you’re paid for? Gosh! – Yours etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I have finally figured out how this water company is to work. First we have always paid for it though general taxation, but it leaks. So now, we are to pay a second tax to pay for the leaks. However, then, if we get a leak, we have to pay again (call-out charge) to fix the leak.

As a wise man once wrote, “it’s a great little country”. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 1.

Sir, – One of the strongest points in favour of the water charges is that it will put a stop to the gallop of the wasters.

We have all heard the stories about people who leave their taps running so that the pipes won’t freeze and who lavish water on the garden, washing cars, etc, etc.

I am surprised at how badly this is explained. I am also surprised that the question is never put to the anti-charges people, “How would you deal with this awful waste?”

Already I find myself cutting down on the use of water in many different ways.

I wonder what people will think of us in a hundred years when they are told that we flushed our toilets with expensively purified water. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – John McAvoy, former general manager of the CAO, in his comments on TCD’s alternative entry assessment criteria (“Students are guinea pigs in Trinity’s experiment”, Education Opinion, October 14th), raises the key issue of the authenticity of the authorship of the essay which is a significant element of the proposed entry assessment procedure.

The Hyland report (2011) draws particular attention to this issue.

When dealing with the question of essays and personal statements, Hyland states that “plagiarism is common in countries where personal statements are required, and would be likely to occur here if such an option were introduced”.

On the question of the presentation of a portfolio, Hyland states that “issues of author verification would arise, as well as the advantage secured by candidates who might have had access to coaching and private support”.

The same would apply to an essay.

As regards the proposal to rate students relative to their school, Hyland has this to say: “Students might transfer to less advantaged schools in their final year to take advantage of the benefits such a system would confer”.

I sincerely hope that the realism of Mr McAvoy and Prof Hyland will not be ignored. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – In his article “€4m plan for 1916 Rising ceremonies is a mystery” (Opinion & Analysis, October 18th), Diarmaid Ferriter states that the plans may be “an even bigger secret than were the plans for the Rising itself”.

Perhaps what is proposed by the Government is to replicate the events leading up to the Rising – plan, disagree, cancel and then go ahead at the last minute? – Yours, etc,



Co Limerick.

Sir, – Prof Diarmaid Ferriter correctly deplores the lack of concrete information about the Government’s plans for the Easter Rising centenary commemorations, but may I express my disgust that the Government has seen fit to allocate an additional €4 million for these commemorations without offering any relief to the national cultural institutions – in particular, the National Library and National Museum – which have been starved of resources in recent years, with draconian cuts in funding and staffing? These institutions are the key bodies for meaningful research in Irish history and culture, and the allocation of these additional funds favours commemoration over history – a serious case of misplaced priorities.

The Romans used to think panem et circenses would keep the people happy, and this Government apparently takes the same dismal view. Its policy seems to be, better to have a spectacle in 2016 – a patriotic circus – than a deeper understanding of our history. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – Perhaps Jennifer O’Connell in her column should have referred to the taking on of her own surname (“Bear Mel Gibson’s example in mind, Mrs Clooney”, October 21st).

To quote from her column, “but you’ll never take away my surname”.

Presumably her mother took her husband’s name of O’Connell on her marriage and left behind her own “maiden name”, so why didn’t Ms O’Connell take on her mother’s original surname to use, rather than her father’s? This would be the logical step for her to take, even at this late stage, when she now criticises Amal Alamuddin for taking on her new husband’s name of Clooney! Is it not Mrs Clooney’s business as to what decision she has made in this regard and no one else’s? – Yours, etc,


Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Irish Independent:

Exaggeration of the proximity of Christmas is a striking feature of today’s commercial world. We become easy victims of the magic of marketing and the seduction of sales strategies with their relentless repetition of the message to ‘shop ’til we drop’.

The marketing surrounding Harry Potter memorabilia, in my opinion, takes the stimulation of a desire to possess trinkets to a new level. The Potter magic is weaving spells of acquisitiveness that appeal to the innocent gullibility of children. Be warned! Your little loved ones will not forgive you if you refuse to empty your purse into the coffers of a fairly ruthless business peddling these toys.

Vance Packard, in his book ‘The Hidden Persuaders’, was one of the first to raise awareness of the way advertisers manipulate our expectations by subliminally inducing desire for products. The world of advertising plays fast and loose with the truth in its determination to stimulate sales.

The morality of marketing techniques is rarely questioned. Just consider the power of ‘buy one get one free’ marketing, which has resulted in over-filled fridges and subsequent food waste. But then, moral imagination has no place in the world of conspicuous and extravagant consumption.

Advertisers claim that they are in the business of making it easier for people to get what they want by providing relevant information. A more accurate characterisation of their work may be that it fuels our insatiable drive towards having far more than enough, whilst so many are struggling to feed their families.

The modern supermarket replaces the cathedral, particularly in relation to Sunday attendance. No longer do we pray for what we want, but reach for it on the well-stocked shelves. Should we be unable to pay for what we purchase, the contemporary good Samaritan, the pay-day lender, comes to the rescue.

Philip O’Neill

Oxford, England

True Seanad reform needed

It is a year on from the Seanad abolition referendum and there is no sign of the sort of possible reform that was invoked by action groups such as ‘Democracy Matters’ as the primary justification for its retention.

If anything, the recent Cultural and Educational Panel by-election only served to highlight the inherently dysfunctional nature of the Seanad panel structure.

Obviously, there is a notorious sense of awareness regarding the unfulfilled, perennial nature of Seanad reform debates. There have been so many alternative proposals put forward that a bottleneck of ideas has itself influenced the constitutional inertia. Who is going to do something about it?

The answer to this dilemma is to give the electorate the opportunity to decide which is the best reform. To do so, however, there is a need for constitutional reform to allow ‘preferendums’ to be held. Only permitting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers in referendums has an anachronistic, stifling effect on our democracy. A preferendum would allow for many constitutional questions (not just on the Seanad) to be answered by the people more inclusively and conclusively.

John Kennedy

Goatstown, Dublin 14

Bonus points for right answers

When is a “performance-related bonus” not a bonus?

Only when it is “water-tight”!

Now that is “gas”!

D Raftery

The Curragh, Co Kildare

Means testing and child benefit

Tanaiste Joan Burton has stoutly defended her decision to continue paying the Child Allowance without any reference to means. In a recently reported case of the disposal of two luxury homes on Dublin’s Shrewsbury Road, an estate agent confirmed that one of the properties was rented to an “Irish family” for €15,000 a month – that is €500 a day.

Someone should ask Ms Burton to repeat her justifications in light of the fact that there are families in Ireland with hungry children while, on the other hand, there are wealthy families which are automatically entitled to receive the same State payment that is clearly meant only to be a support where needed.

Jim O’Sullivan

Rathedmond, Co Sligo

A dying man’s plea to Catholics

By way of introduction, I left Ireland in 1959, just after my 23rd birthday. After a short stay in France I moved to England in 1960 and Canada in 1966.

While my mental faculties are still functioning 100pc I am writing this letter from the intensive care unit of the hospital. My condition is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, for which there is no cure. It has taken a bad turn, so the future is unknown.

The amazing initial outcome is that I have been able to accept it with complete resignation. This is, I believe, because when I received the news in January last that I had six months to a year to live it enabled me to plan so that all necessary details of my affairs are in order, including funeral, etc. This will greatly help my wife and family.

This strength just did not come from the foretelling of my death. It came from the spiritual training I received growing up in Ireland. I have always drawn strength from this throughout my life, especially from a very special teacher at the national school I attended.

The bad apples in the clergy barrel of recent history don’t have the power to take away this inner strength given to me by God through the Catholic Church in Ireland.

My prayer is that Irish Catholics will take advantage of the fantastic spiritual assistance still available from the many loyal priests who are so deserving of their support and trust.

Looking from afar I thank God for Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who, despite humbly taking such public abuse, has done so much in regaining respectability for the church.

Paddy O’Boyle

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Suffering not confined to Africa

Bob Geldof states that people in Africa are dying because they are poor, not because there is no medical care or food. This is true to some extent, but death, unbound bereavement, the feeling of loss and helplessness are not confined to the African continent.

They can also plague rich Western nations where there is abundance of medical care, medicines and food and where there are the best healthcare centres to care for patients and staunch the spread of infectious diseases such as Ebola.

The mega rich in wealthy nations can also succumb to death through different vistas: drug addiction, mental health illnesses, terrible depressiveness and suicide. Death is inevitable. It intrudes itself unexpectedly into the lives of all without taking notice of their backgrounds, religions, beliefs, races and cultures. In this sense, it embodies God’s justice itself. It is therefore lamentable that people vie for power and resources.

In our shrinking world, the quest for hegemony and natural resources has led to authoritarianism, corruption, wars and viruses and there is no end in sight for our descent into chaos. This is an unholy war. This is where people declare themselves God’s chosen people on Earth to do God’s will.

What is needed is the will and bravery to confront ourselves and choose whether we want to live in our God’s image or do his will on Earth.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London, England

Response: ‘And also with flu’

I got the impression from a medical person that one of the most likely ways of spreading cold, flu, etc is by shaking hands indiscriminately. In the context of Church services, as they say in the exam papers, please discuss.

JJ O’Reilly

Dublin 16

Irish Independent



October 20, 2014

20 October 2014 Blustery

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day I manage to sweep the drive in parts.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Richard Mackworth – obituary

Richard Mackworth was an engineer who restored his family seat and made Routemaster buses reliable

Richard Mackworth

Richard Mackworth

6:59PM BST 19 Oct 2014


Richard Mackworth, who has died aged 89, applied his skills as a mechanical engineer to keep London’s Routemaster buses on the road in the 1950s and later to the restoration of his family seat, Buntingsdale Hall, near Market Drayton, Shropshire.

The hall, a rambling red-brick Grade II* listed house, had been built for the Mackworth family between 1719 and 1721, though they sold it in 1797. During the Second World War Buntingsdale was requisitioned as a Bomber Command control centre. The RAF kept the building during the Cold War until 1981 when the house was sold to developers who divided it into flats and, it is claimed, embarked upon insurance scams which were going to conclude with the house being burned down. When Mackworth, a descendant of the original owners, became aware of the situation, he and his wife Rosalind set about buying back the flats piecemeal. In due course they succeeded in reclaiming the whole house, to which they moved, on a semi-permanent basis, in 1985.

By this time the house was in a serious state of disrepair, with no water, gas or electricity. All the floorboards and mantelpieces had been stripped out. Water was pouring in through the ceilings.

With minimal help from conservation bodies, Mackworth set about repairing the house, starting with the roof. Then, once the house was watertight he began on the rooms, restoring them one by one with the help of a team of local people. He did much of the work himself, often teaching himself new building techniques on the job and seeing off vandals on his own. It was a long and laborious process which was crowned, in 2004, with the house being removed from the Historic Buildings at Risk register. By the end of his life Mackworth had the satisfaction of knowing that the work was complete.

Buntingsdale Hall, near Market Drayton, Shropshire

Richard Charles Audley Mackworth, known as “Dick”, was born on October 29 1924. His father, Philip Mackworth, was a much-decorated Air Vice Marshal, and Richard’s early life was peripatetic as his family followed the RAF around the globe. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, in Canada, where his father was in charge of wartime pilot training for the RAF.

The moment he turned 17, with the war in Europe still raging, young Dick volunteered to follow his father into the RAF. In fact he had to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, but soon managed to transfer to the RAF, serving towards the end of the war as a pilot in Transport Command and Coastal Command. After the end of the war he was involved in long-haul flights to the Far East, repatriating PoWs.

Demobbed in the rank of Flight Lieutenant, he went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge, to read Mechanical Engineering, graduating with a First, followed by an MSc at Imperial College. He was then invited to joined the design office of London Transport, where he was responsible for ensuring the reliable operation of the engine and drivetrain (the components that deliver power to the wheels) of the red Routemaster buses which were then beginning to appear on London’s roads.

After 10 years with LT he joined BOC, where he was responsible for developing new food freezing technologies, followed by Chemico and finally as chief construction engineer with the American international engineering and construction company Fluor, with whom he was involved in building oil pipelines in the Arabian Desert. In the early 1980s he was sought out by the Libyan national oil company Sirte to handle the repair and rebuilding of a desert control centre which had been blown up by terrorists, and also to rebuild the oil pipelines across the desert. He worked on this project for some years before returning to Britain to devote himself to Buntingsdale Hall.

In 1960 he married Rosalind Walters, who survives him with their two daughters.

Richard Mackworth, born October 29 1924, died September 9 2014


Healthcare worker with children recovering from Ebola, Freetown, Sier A healthcare worker speaks to children recovering from Ebola at a treatment centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 15 October 2014. Photograph: Michael Duff/AP

Kofi Annan is right to criticise the slow reaction by the west to the Ebola crisis (Follow Britain’s example on Ebola, David Cameron tells world leaders, 17 October 2014). However, I do not agree that “if the crisis had hit some other region it probably would have been handled very differently. In fact, when you look at the evolution of the crisis, the international community really woke up when the disease got to America and Europe.” Mr Annan knows very well that there would be no need for the west to help Africa fight Ebola today if most of the £550bn given to the continent as development aid since independence, had not been diverted to fund local leaders’ luxury lifestyles.

Yet the insinuation of racism is too often used to morally blackmail western governments into taking, or not taking an action in Africa. For example, last year, the African Union passed a resolution that claimed the west was using the international criminal court (ICC) to witch-hunt African leaders.
Sam Akaki
Director, Democratic Institutions for Poverty Reduction in Africa (Dipra)

• Sierra Leone has been a recipient of development aid for many years. The UK and US, the biggest donors, both stress that they prioritise health. Net bilateral aid from the UK in 2012 was £62m. However, reports on the effectiveness of aid from the OECD in 2010 and the UN University in 2013 make no reference to health. The capacity and resilience of the health system in the face of Ebola strongly suggests far too little progress has been made. Unless radical improvements are made to primary healthcare and basic services such as sanitation and clean water, Sierra Leone and a multitude of low and middle income countries will remain vulnerable to chronic ill health and premature mortality and epidemics. We are surely entitled to ask whether the emphasis on trade and economic development in aid is at the expense of the majority of the populations in many states.
Neil Blackshaw
Little Easton, Essex

• We welcome the deployment of medical staff, public health specialists and even the military who are arriving to support their efforts (Report, 16 October). But we must also remember the thousands of local people who have been working flat out on this disease since the first outbreaks. They are doctors and nurses, community health workers, cleaners and those who bury the dead safely. And there are also ordinary people who have volunteered to go into villages and teach people how to protect themselves from the disease and also try to quell the panic and fear that people are understandably feeling.

ActionAid staff and volunteers have been doing this job here in Liberia and in Sierra Leone, as well as going into quarantined areas to provide emergency food rations to those who are not allowed to harvest their crops or go to market to buy food. So, yes we need funds for medical treatment, but let’s not forget, to cut this outbreak off at the source requires a holistic approach involving medical intervention, prevention campaigns and practical aid for those affected, which is centred around community mobilisation.
Ms Korto Williams
Country Director, ActionAid Liberia

• US secretary of state John Kerry speaks of the Ebola “scourge” as comparable with HIV (Report, 18 October). I was a clinical nurse specialist working with people with HIV/Aids three decades ago when HIV was first identified. At the time there was ignorance and fear about “a disease of dark origin” coming out of Africa and seen as a threat to the west. Now we face a similar situation with Ebola; it is forgotten that Sierra Leone has the world’s highest mortality rate for malaria, in excess of Ebola figures. Malaria kills 130/100,000 of its population. How much does the west express concern and demand action? Oh, I forgot: malaria has zero rates in these countries.
Denis Cobell

• What are your human rights during quarantine? It is clear that the right to free movement and enjoying family life is restricted for public safety needs. People will be locked away to ensure our wellbeing. We do have a responsibility for their care. Do we have enough secure rooms or will we use prisons? How can we guarantee everybody is treated with respect? Who is responsible for people’s wellbeing during the two months lasting quarantine? Rents? There will be a need for psychological support.

I once was wrongly quarantined for swine flu and something as ordinary as pneumonia was missed in the hysteria, and nearly treated too late. This time, some people with temperatures coming from Africa might be misdiagnosed too. We need compassion for the infected, the NHS staff but also the innocently quarantined. We should not let hysteria dictate our treatment of potential infected people but focus on public health measures that are properly thought through.
Julia Thrul

• While the Hong Kong government has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently (Letters, passim), preventative health measures initiated there during the Sars crisis of 2003 when Dr Margaret Chan, the current head of the WHO, was director of health, included the obligation for lift buttons, door handles etc in public buildings to be disinfected many times a day. These measures are still in force, as is the obligation for all passengers arriving at the international airport to walk through thermal imaging fever-scanners. Border control points between Hong Kong and mainland China also implement disease prevention and control measures. These are not fail-safe measures by any means, but at times of crisis like the current Ebola outbreak, such actions most certainly help educate the public about how diseases can spread, and how individuals can monitor their habits to help prevent further rapid spreading.
Paul Tattam
Teignmouth, Devon

• After the screening confusion at Heathrow (Report, 14 October), perhaps the UK could seek advice from Nicaragua. I passed through Managua airport on Monday en route from Houston, stood in line with everyone else to have my temperature checked, and today received a precautionary follow-up visit from a doctor. Nicaragua’s national health budget, by the way, is less than a typical NHS trust.
John Perry
Masaya, Nicaragua

• I see travellers are being checked for symptoms of Ebola at departure points in affected countries. A further precaution would be to advise the public against unnecessary international travel for the time being. This would buy time for doctors to contain the virus at source.
Susan Roberts
Sterrebeek, Belgium

• Is fear of Ebola on aeroplanes the spur to video-conferencing that businesses have been long waiting for?
Godfrey H. Holmes
Withernsea, East Riding

• For any infective disease, the basic reproduction rate is the number of new cases produced by a single case in a susceptible (ie unvaccinated) population (Simon Jenkins, 17 October). If the figure is less than 1, the infection will die out. If greater than 1, an epidemic can result. With Ebola the rate is just above 1.5, which means that every two cases produce three more. That is the basis for the WHO prediction that new cases in West Africa will double every month. Without an effective vaccine, the disease will become progressively more difficult to control as the number of cases increase, and unless quarantine measures are introduced, spread to the rest of the world seems inevitable.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

• Simon Jenkins is right to inveigh against the habit of politicians keeping the populace in a state of fear. The tragedy is that this epidemic could have been nipped in the bud months ago if governments had paid heed to organisations such as Medecins sans Frontières whose newsletters portrayed the horror of the situation in unemotional terms. The cutting of the WHO budget and aid to the health systems of West Africa by the World Bank and others is now revealed as the grossest false economy, for which we will all pay dearly in terms of both human misery and money.
Dr John Hurdley

Scotland's hope? Gordon Brown. Scotland’s hope? Gordon Brown. Photograph: Garry F Mcharg/PA

It has generally been acknowledged that Gordon Brown (Comment, 18 October) brought new energy and passion to the no campaign in the final weeks before the referendum. He also persuaded the three party leaders to agree the “vow” on further devolution, which some believe ensured a positive result for the union. So he cannot now simply stand on the touchline and encourage the players on the field. He must help to ensure his vision is realised. There are three ways he can do so.

First, he can help Lord Smith of Kelvin succeed in what is a difficult, if not impossible, task of finding a consensus among the five parties on his commission. Then he can help ensure that the English democratic deficit is not dealt with by trying to alter the standing orders of the Commons on the English votes for English laws model, which, as he rightly says, would again threaten the integrity of the UK. This can only be resolved by looking at our constitution in a coherent way in a UK constitutional convention similar to the one which designed Scottish devolution. If Gordon can persuade the three party leaders on the “vow”, surely he is the person to get them to agree to set up such a convention now, so it can work in parallel with the Smith commission.

Finally, he should consider whether his enormous talents could be mobilised to help Holyrood implement the new powers that are to be agreed by standing for the Scottish parliament. This may appear to be an unusual move but we are now in uncharted waters, and bold action, at which Gordon is adept, is what is needed.
George Foulkes
Lab, House of Lords

• I respect Gordon Brown’s desire to ensure fairer treatment for Scotland. But his complicated suggestions will not alter the fact that “533 English MPs can, at any time they choose, easily outvote the 117 parliamentarians from the rest of the UK”. He should add that as the 533 are disproportionately from English public schools, they are unlikely to have much sympathy for the Scottish working class. They overwhelmingly gave support to the millionaire Tory ministers who, by mammoth cuts to the Scottish welfare budget, created more inequality, poverty, want and hunger than I have ever seen in Scotland’s deprived areas. Moreover, the Labour party backed these cuts as, to their shame, so did the 41 Scottish Labour MPs, who dare not differ from the Labour leadership.

I write with over 50 years in the Labour party. The only way for Scotland to combat the harmful policies imposed by Westminster is by independence. I plead with Gordon Brown to be the Labour leader who leads Scotland to an independence which can bring about greater democracy, equality and social justice.
Bob Holman

Woman typing on computer keyboard ‘I’m surprised male letter writers so outnumber females, as in your column I outpublish my husband. But I rush to the computer and dash off letters.’ Photograph: Martin Rogers/Getty

I don’t know which statistic describes me (The role of the Guardian letters page in the digital age, Open door, 13 October), but I always look at the letters page. I glance first at the headlines of the letter groups, then the names of the authors. Being female, 66, retired, healthy, content (in my private life, not in the state of things), I nevertheless find certain subjects too depressing to bother with, so letters on those are rarely read by me.

I usually read all the letters in the humorous section, always read those by Keith Flett, and since the publication of friend Norma Laming’s letter about her rabbits’ voting preference (Letters, 14 August), I look for her name. I have sent several letters over the years, but have not so far made the cut.
Eva Joyce

• I’m surprised male letter writers so outnumber females, as in your letters column I outpublish my husband. But I rush to the computer and dash off letters, while he takes three days to make sure his position is clear and misses the boat – you move the news agenda on so relentlessly. Maybe women who work full-time and mind the kids would manage to write if the news window was wider.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews

• I fancied I might be counted among the core letter writers, but I seem to have been drummed out of the group lately. I’ll happily accept editorial space in lieu (Letters, 15 October). Shall I send my bank details?
W Stephen Gilbert
Corsham, Wiltshire

• I remember the good old days when the letters page was ranked alongside the leader column (Letters, October 16).
John Bailey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Alexander Wang x H&M Collection Launch - Show Like George Osborne dressed by Steve Bell? Aleander Wang x H&M catwalk show, 16 October 2014. Photograph: Thomas Concordia/WireImage

Jess Cartner-Morley (Wang brings sport and scuba chic to high street, 18 October) curiously ignores the similarity between H&M’s latest collection, and George Osborne’s S&M outfit, designed and oft-employed by Steve Bell. Surely the defining influence?
Eddie Dougall
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk  

• Recent activity in the fossil banks would suggest an appropriate name for the current geological era (Letters, 17 October) might be the Rapacious Period – known perhaps colloquially, as the Boracic?
Chris Osborne

• I don’t recall Lord Freud (Report, 16 October) raising objections when the party closed down the Remploy factories because they needed subsidies.
David Redshaw
Gravesend, Kent


I have read with interest your many articles about the NHS. Having received a great deal of treatment from the NHS over the past three years, I thought it was about time I gave my thoughts and experiences.

I live in Worcestershire and have access primarily to a superb GP. We have been with this practice for many years and have built up an excellent relationship with all the staff, GPs, practice nurses and ancillary staff.

In 2010 I finally decided that problems with arthritis were severely hampering what I could do. Having gone through preliminary procedures we – the GP and I – decided that an operation was needed.

My GP was happy to refer me to my hospital of choice: the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham. Over the next 12 months I had two procedures: a right ankle fusion and 12 months later a left knee replacement.

During both of these procedures my experience was one of total satisfaction, both with the outcomes of the operations and the care administered by the staff.

I am now, thanks to dedicated, committed and highly skilled NHS staff, totally pain-free.

I thought that I had done at that point and felt very grateful to a superb health service. I was wrong. I was diagnosed shortly afterwards with bowel cancer. Once again I received first-rate treatment from doctors and surgeons.

I am now recovering and, throughout all my experiences of four separate NHS trusts covering six hospitals, I can honestly say that I was treated with kindness, care, respect and some of the most skilful surgery and radiotherapy you could wish for.

I have had treatment from the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire, and community support services, as well as the Royal Orthopaedic  Hospital and my GP at St John’s Surgery in Bromsgrove.

My final point is this: stop knocking the NHS. Yes, there may well be problems; it’s an enormous organisation which is strapped for cash. My abiding memories are of dedicated, skilled individuals who are committed to the very best of care and treatment they can offer. The best part, by far, of the NHS is the people.

I genuinely hope that current and subsequent governments keep their hands off a service which was and should still be one of the best there is.

I would not choose to have private healthcare. I have been treated to some of the best surgery I could wish for and all delivered free. The NHS was groundbreaking at its inception and still maintains those ideals, when it is allowed to do its work unfettered by interference.

Don’t privatise the NHS.

Peter Garnett
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

Could there be anything more chilling than the unnamed Government source’s comment in your report “Tens of thousands of patients at risk from NHS outsourcing” (17 October) about “the need to minimise regulatory burdens on business”?

In other words, safeguards put in place to protect patient safety must be lowered in order to allow the private sector to extract more profit out of patient sickness.

Christopher Anton

If the Germans had taken Stonehenge…

It’s 1956 and the Third Reich is well established over the whole of Europe. His Excellency Herman Schmidt, Governor of occupied England, grants permission for a German aristocrat to remove the stones of Stonehenge to a site in Berlin where they are re-erected in a museum to the ancient world.

It cost the German aristocrat a lot of money to transport them over to Berlin, so the then German superstate bought the stones off him in recompense.

Let’s skip forward a couple of hundred years and, supported by the US, the people of Britain, in a decade-long war, have reclaimed their land. Seeking to restore their cultural history, they apply to a now chastened Germany for the return of Stonehenge on the grounds that it is stolen goods.

How is this any different to our unlawful possession of the Elgin Marbles? The Greek people have an absolute right to the return of stolen goods.

G Barlow
Greasby, Wirral

Egg freezing gives women choice

Media and public alike have been too quick to criticise the move by Facebook and Apple to pay female workers to freeze their eggs.

These companies are being progressive, acknowledging that many of their female employees wish to have children later in life and enabling them to do so. It’s not such a sinister move as is being portrayed. These companies are incredibly supportive of parenting and offer a whole arsenal of benefits to support women if they choose to have children, from bonuses to surrogacy subsidies.

Many women working in tech are young. They don’t want to put their careers on hold to have children, but neither do they have the funds to stop their biological clocks. Allowing women to freeze their eggs makes this choice accessible, providing further flexibility about how they want to play out their careers. View it as a radical perk or a chain to the office; ultimately it provides a choice – and one that women aren’t forced to take.

Hayley Fisher
London SW1

Let’s have a new generation of hope

When I was growing up in the 1960s, the dominant mood was one of hope for the future. Around us were many events – including the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam war, challenges to the established order, and many diseases that had tragic outcomes for individuals – but hope was the sentiment that led to progress. Despite the many failures in the latter half of the 20th century, progress has been driven by people and politicians fuelled by this sentiment.

Contrast that period with our current situation. Following the lead of the US, our politicians are attempting to exploit fear to generate votes; our 24-hour rolling news searches for disasters, tragedies and crimes to energise its output; and the tabloid press produces headlines to shock rather than inform.

Ebola, Isis, economic instability and the funding of the NHS are all matters that need solutions, and mankind’s resilience and innovation can find answers, but not if paralysed by fear.

I implore our political leaders in the future election campaign to give the people of this country a vision of hope. If they do not, fear will lead to despair, and my concern is for the effect on the young generation growing up in such an inward-looking, insecure society.

John Dillon
Northfield, Birmingham

False benefit of restricting migrants

Our Prime Minister has it in mind to restrict immigration from the EU of the unskilled and, no doubt, of the handicapped too. We are to attract only the skilled and gifted. “Johnny Foreigner” must be kept away as much as possible.

European countries would then take the exactly reciprocal course. They will want our finest and to return our unskilled.

The original idea of freeing up European labour markets was so that swings in labour need would be self-correcting, as, to a large extent, they are.

Kenneth J Moss

David Cameron is hinting at applying a brake on immigration from mainland Europe. If he and George Osborne were to reverse their policy of playing up our economic recovery, then the UK would appear less attractive to foreign nationals. But of course this might lower further their chances of a Tory majority next May.

Peter Erridge
East Grinstead, West Sussex

On a day that saw more damaging rhetoric from David Cameron on Europe, giving it “one last go” at negotiations, you reported on the ongoing resistance of the bankers, backed by George Osborne, to new European rules on bonuses.

Where are the politicians brave enough to insist that it is the greedy banks and global corporations that should be in the last chance saloon, and that political unions – both the UK and the EU – offer the best defence for their citizens against the negative side of globalisation?

Andrew Gardner
London NW3

Islam and the treatment of women

No. Mr Beswick, Islam does not “forbid rape” (letter, 16 October). The Koran, chapter 4, verse 24 lists the categories of women that are forbidden to Muslim men, among them “married women, except those whom you own as slaves”.

The Koranic commentator Sayyid Maududi interprets this as meaning that it is lawful for Muslim “holy warriors” to marry women prisoners of war even when their husbands are still alive. Maududi didn’t live in some brutish century of the past. He died in 1979.

This is the justification that Isis is using for its barbarous treatment of enslaved Yazidi women and girls.

David Crawford
Bromley, Kent


Sir, Philip Collins (“Let’s halt the pensioners runaway gravy train”, Opinion, Oct 17) overlooks the effect of low interest rates. The £100s per annum “gained” by pensioners from the rise in state benefits has been at the cost of £1,000s lost to them because of reduced interest on savings and annuities. The baby boomers took their cue from their parents, who lived within their means. The 21st-century family have bought into the concept of entitlement “because they are worth it” and now blame others.
Rodney Fisher
Liss, Hants

Sir, The problem is that politicians of all persuasions think that you can have public services and a welfare state for nothing. Many of my generation paid tax of up to 27p in the pound to fund hospitals, schools and universities for present and future generations. We didn’t whinge. We have a low-wage, low-tax economy that allows the wealthy and large corporations to opt out of paying taxes. It is the super-rich, who have about 95 per cent of the wealth in this country, that are getting off lightly.
Barry Wadeson

Milton Keynes, Bucks

Sir, Philip Collins fails to mention that more than 50,000 pensioners are forced by their councils to sell or ensure estate provision of their homes in order to pay for care and nursing as self-funders.
Vernon Scarborough

Copthorne, W Sussex

Sir, Both Philip Collins and the Institute for Economic Affairs (report, Oct 17) suggest a dramatic reduction in the state pension. Both ignore the fact that such a move would hurt the less well-off far more severely. Meanwhile, the imminent change in state pensions to a flat rate is an aggravating factor to some, with retirement age creeping upwards and a regime that requires only 35 years’ contributions to achieve a full pension — far less than required for us nuisance baby boomers.
Malcolm Griffiths
Solihull, W Midlands

Sir, Pension reform is welcome but pension companies will see their income diminished as a sizeable number of “new” pensioners will choose a tax-free lump sum over an annuity. This will cause instability among pension companies and the possible loss of lifetime savings should one go bust — as happened with Equitable Life. A solution might be to enhance tax benefits for pension holders to encourage them to take an annuity or keep an existing one. The government should also set up a compensation scheme to protect pensioners if their pension provider goes belly up.
Stephen Kirk

London NW1

Sir, Life isn’t as agreeable for some pensioners as Mr Collins imagines. Mindful that job changes would leave me with a couple of minute preserved pensions, I saved assiduously. I opted for Equitable Life, so goodbye to most of that. I gasp with relief each month when the state pension turns up.
Elizabeth Balsom
London SW15

Sir, That successive governments have squandered money on vanity projects is hardly the fault of the baby boomers. There has never been a one-to-one relationship between contributions and distribution across age bands.
Tim Thomas

Langstone, Hants

Sir, Ross Clark (Thunderer, Oct 15) contends that “in 2012-13 tax relief on pension contributions cost the Treasury £50 billion”. Since all bar the 25 per cent tax-free cash from a pension pot is taxable, the net cost is actually £2.5 billion. He also states that by saving £40,000 a year (the contribution cap) “you would end up so rich that that you could afford a valet and a butler”. The £1.25 million fund limit, however, would buy a 65-year-old a taxable joint annuity of £40,000 a year. You won’t get many butlers for that.
Jon Minchin

Pensionline, Epsom, Surrey

Sir, I am a member of the squeezed middle-aged and I am sure that Philip Collins, would be pleased to hear that my 85-year-old mother agrees with him, and is doing her little bit. I am still in receipt of “pocket money” most weeks.
David Ward

Moreton, Wirral

Sir, Bill Bryson’s book Mother Tongue says that the suffixes “-age” and “-idge” (“Garage, Farage”, letter, Oct 16) are of French origin. “-age” words adopted before the 17th century became anglicised into “-idge”. Later adoptions retained the Gallic flavour. “Farage” must be a recent import.
Barbara Geere (née Grattidge)
Bromley, Kent

Sir, It has been a wonderful year for blackberries here, with a plentiful crop of juicy, flavoursome fruit. My freezer is full to overflowing. I wryly note that my local Tesco is having to heavily discount its blackberries — imported from Guatemala.
Robin Edwins
Ecclefechan, Dumfries & Galloway

Sir, Apropos Boris Johnson’s proposal to ban smoking in London parks (report, Oct 15). While on business in New York, to celebrate a sale I sat on a quiet bench in Central Park and lit a cigar. I was blissfully puffing away, when a woman in a mink coat appeared. “You’re killing the trees,” she snarled, her face in mine.

“Madam, how many innocent minks died for your coat?” I asked. “Pray desist.”

She desisted. I exhaled.

Peter Rosengard

London W9
Sir, The problem in Richmond Park is people trying to push the trees over.

Steve Dobell

London SW14

Sir, Our nation should be building at least 240,000 homes a year in communities that are well-designed and in suitable locations, rather than the piecemeal development that can happen currently. We need solutions that aim to ensure people’s happiness and secure national prosperity. Good planning goes beyond the cycle of elections, and cross-party support for the Lyons housing review — unveiled last week — is vital for high-quality developments to be delivered. For too long planning has been marked by division. It is time the nation came together. We need a national consensus with:
1) Comprehensive redevelopment of brownfield sites (such as the docks in London, Salford and Bristol);
2) Add-ons to communities where new development improves amenity for everyone; this will include extra services and better transportation — and should not be housing estates just added to the edge of a town, and
3) New settlements based on garden city principles.

The country must set itself on a sustainable path to create communities with the best public transport, play areas, schools, workplaces and social facilities. Our children deserve no less.

Lord Adonis

Bob Allies

Roger Bootle

Paul Carter Leader Kent County Council

Sir David Higgins Chairman HS2 Ltd

Lord Deben

Keith Exford Group Chief Executive Affinity Sutton

Sir Terry Farrell

Peter Freeman Argent and Mayfields Market Towns

Euan Hall Chief Executive The Land Trust

Kate Henderson Chief Executive

Peter Jones CBE Chairman South East LEP

Sir Michael Lyons

Roger Madelin

David Orr Chief Executive National Housing Federation

Nick Raynsford MP

Campbell Robb Chief Executive Shelter

Francis Salway Chair Town & Country Housing Group

Lee Shostak Chairman Shared Intelligence

Lord Taylor of Goss Moor

Pat Willoughby Partner Wei Yang + Partners

Lord Wolfson


An overhaul of A-levels will result in thousands of ‘overambitious’ sixth-formers applying to Oxbridge, according to Mike Sewell Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:55AM BST 19 Oct 2014


SIR – I was very disappointed to read the comments made by Mike Sewell, the head of admissions at Cambridge, on the risk of too many students making “overambitious” applications to Oxbridge once AS examinations no longer count towards A-level grades.

Both Oxford and Cambridge have worked hard over the past two decades to dispel some of the myths about studying at their universities and I worry that Dr Sewell’s remarks may undermine some of what has been achieved.

The danger is that such comments will fuel self-doubt in able students who are often too quick to underestimate or disregard their talent and potential. They could also be misinterpreted by teachers and schools with limited experience of Oxbridge applications as encouragement to adopt a risk-averse approach on the basis that it is better not to try than it is to risk not succeeding.

There is no shame in not securing an offer if one applies to Oxbridge; very few of us go through life without encountering a mixture of success and disappointment.

Jason Morrow
Headmaster, Norwich High School

Charity handouts

SIR – Jonathan Robson states that it is “not the Government’s role to fund charities”. However, charities do receive a great deal of funding from the Government – perhaps too much.

In reply to a written question that I tabled, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, on behalf of the Government, wrote: “According to the 2014 UK Voluntary Sector Almanac, published by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, in 2011-12 voluntary sector organisations received over £5.9 billion of central government and NHS funding.”

Lord Stoddart of Swindon
Independent Labour Peer

Slash the slang

SIR – Last year The Telegraph reported that a primary school in the West Midlands had banned the use of Black Country slang.

This week it was revealed that standards at the school have improved, which merits an appropriate response: bostin!

Dr Paul Baines

SIR – I am an 81-year-old who speaks Received Pronunciation.

I was recently at a gathering when a young chap turned and said to me: “Why do you speak so weird?”

Wendy Shaw
Kirkham, Lancashire

The Grand Hotel in aftermath of the IRA bombing Photo: Rex

6:57AM BST 19 Oct 2014


SIR – I started attending Conservative Party conferences in 1982 and continued until the seaside towns were abandoned and Birmingham and Manchester became the hosts. For me, the 1984 conference will always be the most memorable.

On the Thursday of that week I had been awarded the privilege of proposing the motion for the debate on employment. I had worked hard on my speech, interviewing many people on the subject and learning a great deal.

When the bomb exploded and woke me in nearby Regency Square, and later when I turned on the television to see Norman Tebbit being pulled from the rubble, I was horrified.

What struck me, and what no one has mentioned since, was the silence in the town, which was normally bustling. I found a telephone and called my husband to tell him I was safe and that I was staying put: nothing should deter us from finishing our conference with true defiance.

I have seldom been so proud to be a Conservative as I was when we greeted the solemn but determined prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. She was the target of the IRA’s hatred, but she had the courage to stand in front of us all and promise to fight.

As for the Brighton bomber, Patrick Magee, I agree with Norman Tebbit: if he has not repented, he should not be forgiven.

Sally A Williams
Dinas Cross, Pembrokeshire

Ticked off with trains

SIR – Your correspondent Jim Middleton (Letters, October 5) complains about the speed of Crossrail trains.

I live 44 miles north-west of central Manchester. If I wish to get to the city by train, I have to first travel 25 miles east to Leeds before changing and catching a train to Manchester, a further 45 miles to the west. On one of two possible routes for this second leg I would at one point, after travelling for over an hour, be a mere 7 miles from home.

There are 2.2 million people in West Yorkshire subject to this farce, or elements of it. A missing link of 11.5 miles between Skipton and Colne, which used to provide an excellent connection to Manchester and Liverpool for those living north of Leeds and Bradford, was closed in the Seventies.

Dr Beeching, then chairman of British Railways, wanted to leave it open, but London-based civil servants required the London Midland region to lose 12 miles of track to make up a closure target, and this piece handily fitted the bill. The cost of re-opening this track would be a few million and the disruption virtually nil.

Our transport needs are addressed by civil servants in the capital who enjoy so much subsidised public transport that cars are not even necessary for a decent life – and now they are to get Crossrail too.

These people do not seem to have a clue about provincial conditions.

David Pearson
Haworth, West Yorkshire

SIR – Your correspondent Ian Nalder does not go far enough when he says that the HS2 project should be deferred.

It should be cancelled.

P M Hughes
Bascote Heath, Warwickshire

Staring down students

SIR – Keith Pearson (Letters, October 5) writes that teachers should “assume authority to demand respect” in the classroom.

In 1946, when I began my teaching career in a boys’ elementary school, a wise headmaster gave me some sound advice. Pointing to his left eye he said: “This is the best method you have for keeping order: the cold, silent stare.”

In 1959 I moved to a secondary modern school and later spent 14 years in a college of technology. Students included A-level and Higher National Diploma candidates, private secretaries, motor mechanics and some tough young mining engineers, but with any who attempted disruption – and some did – the cold, silent stare never failed.

Kevin Heneghan
St Helens, Lancashire

Churchill’s bills

SIR – Boris Johnson may be right to conclude that Churchill was warm-hearted, but it was a mistake to pray in aid the fact that he “sent money to the wife of his doctor when she got into difficulties”. The reason he did this was more prosaic.

The government paid Churchill’s doctor during the war. When Lord Moran continued in his role as Churchill’s personal physician after the war, he declined any direct payment, partly because it would have been taxed at more than 90 per cent.

The solution the pair reached was that Churchill would pay Lady Moran under a seven-year deed of covenant. As a non-taxpayer, she was able to boost the sum he paid by reclaiming the basic rate of tax; as a higher-rate taxpayer, Churchill was able to use the payments to reduce his own tax bill. The net cost to him was about 10 per cent of the amount Lady Moran received.

So successful was this arrangement that Churchill extended it to the Morans’ sons when he needed more medical attention in his later years.

David Lough
Penshurst, Kent

Escape to Alcazar

SIR – How can one recommend Seville (Travel, Your Say, October 12) without mentioning the magnificent Alcazar – the stunning Moorish Palace next to the cathedral?

Carol Parkin
Poole, Dorset

Apt punishment?

SIR – Reading about the packed “isolation” room reminded me of a comparably ironic policy implemented by Strathclyde’s education department when I worked for it in the Seventies: persistent truancy was punished by exclusion from school.

Robin Dow
Stocksbridge, West Yorkshire

Great British traditions: fish, chips and puns served up at the Jolly Sole chip shop in Banffshire, Scotland Photo: christopher Pillitz / Alamy

6:59AM BST 19 Oct 2014


SIR – Paul Levy traces the “exotic history of fish and chips” and how this became the “emblematic dish of the United Kingdom”.

Fish and chips actually helped ease the hardship experienced by the unemployed during the Great Depression in the Thirties when there wasn’t much food or money to go around.

However, the former chairman of the public health committee in Sunderland did later recall that he opposed the spread of fish and chip shops at the time because they were often “dirty rooms with primitive equipment and doubtful frying oil”.

He said they smelled unpleasant and he thought they were unhygienic, but conceded that the fish and chip shop played its part in providing cheap, tasty meals.

Peter Myers
Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire

Owen Paterson will say that the Government’s plan to slash carbon emissions is fatally flawed Photo: AFP

7:00AM BST 19 Oct 2014


SIR – Unfortunately, arguments made by Owen Paterson, the former environment secretary, about the Climate Change Act will fall on deaf ears in Government.

The current Environment Secretary, Ed Davey, will not listen to reason and the Scottish government has over-ridden local authority planning decisions and the wishes of a significant percentage of the population to plaster Scotland with expensive and inefficient wind turbines, despite Scotland having huge quantities of water available for hydropower and thousands of tonnes of coal still to be mined.

Peter J Fitch
Lhanbryde, Morayshire

SIR – Three cheers for Mr Paterson. At last a senior politician is speaking out about the impossibility of reaching the target of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, without shutting down most British businesses and putting the lights out.

Moreover, it would not make a jot of difference to climate change when no other country has such stringent, legally binding targets and many countries have no targets at all.

Rodney Tate
Swineshead, Bedfordshire

SIR – Mr Paterson has got himself into an intellectual jumble. The Climate Change Act is studiously technology-neutral and does not mandate the use of renewable or any other energy. It sets a legal framework for governments to establish emission objectives, on time scales that help strategic planning for and by industries.

It is always easy to favour alternative technologies that have not yet faced the realities of deployment on a large scale, as Mr Paterson does modular nuclear power, but it is unclear why he assumes this would be any more viable, cheaper, cleaner or more socially acceptable than existing options.

Michael Grubb
London WC1

SIR – As a Green Party candidate, I find it fascinating to watch the Tory Right and Ukip rail against efforts to rein in dangerous climate change.

If we burn the amount of carbon the likes of Owen Paterson and Nigel Farage want us to, we will be complicit in causing unprecedented human migration as millions flee newly hostile climates. This would lead to a drastic increase in the pressure on our own borders.

Dr Rupert Read

SIR – Mr Paterson may have some good ideas, but switching off the fridge for two hours at a time would not save energy – you cannot cheat the physics.

A finite quantity of energy is needed to cool or heat a finite mass through a finite temperature range. Intermittency cannot change this – when the fridge is switched on again, it will use the rest of the energy to catch up from where it left off.

The only way to reduce fridge energy is to raise the chilling temperature on the thermostat, but this could compromise food safety.

Any saving is somewhat illusory anyway since the heat the fridge takes from its contents is usually delivered into its surroundings, thus reducing heating costs.

James Wraight
Chatham, Kent

SIR – In his party conference speech, Ed Miliband made a commitment to take all of the carbon out of our electricity by 2030.

In reality the more wind and solar capacity we install, the more back-up capacity we will need for when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. This cannot be supplied by nuclear power, because it cannot just be switched on and off.

Where does Mr Miliband propose to source this back-up power if not in gas and other fossil fuels?

Paul Homewood
Stocksbridge, West Yorkshire

SIR – While we install 14W lightbulbs in our homes to save a few ounces of carbon, some people are preparing for a jolly jaunt into space for fun.

Ralph Hardy
Wokingham, Berkshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Dr Anthony White (“Wind is not a solution to our renewable energy problem”, Opinion & Analysis, October 15th) makes the case that burning wood pellet “sustainable biomass” instead of coal at Ireland’s largest C02 emitting power plant at Moneypoint “would meet Ireland’s renewable targets in one fell swoop”. Dr White advises the group Re Think Pylons and his arguments on Moneypoint are also used by Wind Aware and other groups campaigning against Ireland’s current renewable targets through wind energy.

Absent from Dr White’s and much of the anti-pylon, anti-turbine arguments promoting biomass import is the recognition of the imperative to promote a global strategy of energy demand reduction, efficiency and decarbonisation, including supporting wind energy in strategically appropriate locations.

A biomass power plant has already been granted permission in Killala, Co Mayo, relying on import of timber from Canada and the US. Bord na Móna is already burning some biomass in its Edenderry peat power plant, including imported palm kernels. This nominally reduces Irish emissions, but causes multiple adverse impacts in other countries.

Importing biomass from a highly carbon polluting country, such as the US, is not a sustainable solution to get a notional reduction in Irish emission under current EU carbon accounting rules. Furthermore the production and cultivation of different types of biomass are not carbon neutral, as they have a land use, transportation and environmental impact.

Mass-burning biomass for power generation without heat-loss recovery is inefficient in energy return. Forest thinnings are used in Sweden and Austria in combined heat and power (CHP) plants or for district heating schemes, but this is a finite source. The part conversion of coal-burning plants, such as Drax, England, to imported timber is being strongly opposed by environmental organisations in Britain on grounds of carbon and deforestation impact.

Ireland needs a rapid peat and fossil fuel exit strategy, combined with massive efficiency investment in a range of indigenously sourced or generated renewables. Moneypoint needs to close as soon as possible, but switching from coal to imported biomass does not stand up to scientific and economic evaluation. – Yours, etc,


An Taisce, Dublin 8.

Sir, – For some time now I have noted a tendency by The Irish Times to highlight the conditions of direct provision for asylum seekers and more generally to advocate for greater openness in the treatment of migrants of all categories into Ireland. Laudable as it may be in general terms to underscore the protection of the human rights of all who land on our shores through whatever means, I cannot but be very disappointed at the failure to even discuss the case for limits on migration, as the great majority of “mature” first world nations now do. It is almost as if once again Ireland wants to pretend that this is a global trend that we as a small “friendly” nation can somehow ignore or cope with, no matter what the scale.

It would seem reasonable to expect The Irish Times would provide a balanced forum to debate what is fundamentally a key public policy with the most profound social and financial consequences for the years ahead. Nor is it sufficient to occasionally publish the odd disgruntled missive from an outlier to the argument.

In the absence of informed, rational voices with enough expertise or courage to comment on this matter here at home, then please locate those analysts from other countries who might provide factual evidence upon which may be advanced alternative theses on the desirability or otherwise for future policy development on migration.

Ireland provides a route to a passport far less onerous than most other countries.

Contrary to popular discourse in the media, a strong argument can be made that the essential cohesion of nation state societies needs the glue of cultural homogeneity to some degree. Otherwise as can be seen in Britain to a large extent, we are nothing more than a collection of economic units operating entirely alone within delineated class structures designed to funnel the allocation of wealth, status and capital. Perhaps Ireland has gone down that road already but others will argue that aspects of our culture are still distinct, but will only remain so for as long as our ethnicity remains intact, vibrant and different to the rest of the world. Can sociologists not discuss this on your pages?

Certain parts of Dublin (such as Lucan, Tallaght, Blanchardstown and some inner-city areas) now carry the greatest burden by far of coping with inflows of immigrants.

The consequences are easily seen from similar patterns that have occurred in other jurisdictions, with all the attendant social outcomes. Interesting indeed in this vein, to note from your poll coverage recently, is that Sinn Féin voters were counted among those most in favour of the preservation of direct provision, running counter to the dogma of open border republicanism preached by the leadership of that party.

Ireland might not need a right-wing party as seen in almost every other EU nation to legitimately represent a minority view in this context but it most certainly needs mainstream politicians and national media publications to present all sides of the argument in a reasoned and balanced discourse, and to address adequately the strong concerns of what may be a significant silent majority. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – From memory, albeit somewhat addled by successive years of financial sensory overload, the Universal Social Charge replaced the health and income levies, which were introduced as a temporary measure at a time of national crisis. Now that the economy is more secure and the crisis is over, we should then expect that the Universal Social Charge will be reduced and gradually phased out. It would surely take a cynic to suggest that the Government would hold on to such a device merely as a vehicle to allow it to keep its election promise of not raising income taxes. – Yours, etc,


An Uaimh,

Co na Mhí.

Sir, – After Budget 2015, primary schools will have just €170 per child per year to pay for heating, electricity, water, waste disposal, insurance, cleaning, toilet rolls, hand towels, maintenance of buildings, maintenance and replacement of equipment, postage, telephone and texting, office and classroom consumables, photocopying, printer ink, first aid supplies, banking fees, security, school tours, staff training, school projects and all the other items that need to be paid for just to keep the school open and functioning.

This is less than €1 per day per child.

Even less again when you consider that primary schools pay VAT at the full rates on everything.

Can you help inform the families of Ireland that the voluntary contribution asked for by some schools is a financial necessity nowadays and along with the compulsory property tax and water fees, families should now budget for a “voluntary tax” to help fund the primary schools their children attend?

Depending on the amount of the “voluntary tax” families choose to give, we could have a discussion on investing in our children, but for now I’m just referring to paying the bills. – Yours, etc,



Galway Educate Together

National School.

Sir, – To resist unsound changes to the Junior Cycle being imposed by Government, ASTI and TUI members have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, up to and including strike action if necessary. In addition to the clear opposition of teachers themselves to school-based assessment, a national opinion poll last May showed that the majority of the public are opposed to teachers correcting their own students’ work for certification purposes.

Our main areas of opposition to Junior Cycle changes relate to the planned removal of national certification and external assessment, both of which provide status and credibility to the assessment process.

Such credibility is linked with the high level of public trust in our education system. Indeed, a recent OECD survey placed Ireland first among countries measured for public confidence in their education system. We are also opposed to the imposition of further pressure on the capacity of schools to provide a quality education service in the wake of several years of austerity cuts, none of which were reversed in this year’s budget.

Furthermore, it is clear that proposed changes to subject provision will have detrimental effects on the quality of education for students. Certain subjects such as CSPE, history and geography will be downgraded to optional status.

Such detrimental change will hinder the development of students as informed and active citizens. Sustainable and real educational reform requires teacher support and public confidence. We call on the Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan to engage with us on this basis. – Yours, etc,


President, ASTI,

Thomas McDonagh House,

Dublin 8;





Dublin 6.

Sir, – During a recent Seanad Éireann debate on the 1916 centenary, members referred to the “radical” nature of the Proclamation, Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú in particular quoting the “cherishing all the children of the nation” phrase (“Ó Murchú warns against politically divisive debate on 1916 commemoration”, Seanad Report, October 16th).

The social-radical aspect of the Proclamation should not be exaggerated. The chief emphasis (as one would expect from an IRB manifesto) was on independence and sovereignty. Guaranteeing citizens’ liberties, and “equal rights and equal opportunities”, takes up only a line or two, and there is no mention of a social programme, still less a cultural one.

In this respect, the Proclamation is sometimes confused with the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil in 1919, which is the real children’s charter and which should be credited with articulating, in some detail, the aspiration to human rights and social justice in revolutionary Ireland.

Moreover, it is clear from the context of the Proclamation that the oft-quoted (but widely misunderstood) phrase, “cherishing all the children of the nation equally ”, has nothing to do with justice for the young or social equality but rather with bridging the historic divide between Protestant and Catholic, planter and Gael, unionist and nationalist. – Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor

of Irish History,

University College Cork.

Sir, – The problem for David McConnell (October 13th) and Seamus McKenna (October 14th) is their limitation of allowable evidence to that which can be repeated under laboratory conditions. Anything of a metaphysical or non-reproducible or subjective nature is simply not accepted as evidence. However, I am absolutely certain that both hold views on many questions which cannot be verified by scientific means, not because the technology has not been invented yet but because they are issues of a different type. – Yours, etc,


Shankill, Dublin 18.

A chara, – David McConnell writes with an eye-watering certitude that would make a pontiff blush “people made God, not vice versa”. He overlooks two realities shared by both believer and non-believer.

The atheist can no more categorically prove that God does not exist than can the theist prove the opposite. Were this not so, no sane person would believe other than what had been incontrovertibly proven. Further, both religion and science reach a point of faith in explaining existence. Science, with its rigorous methodology of cause and effect, responds to the question of how the material that caused the Big Bang originated with an answer that is tantamount to faith – it just was “there”. – Is mise,


Nutley Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – David McConnell again exposes the contradictions of the allegedly “humanist” claim that “nothing exists beyond the empirical realm”. Admitting that humanists, like everyone else, recognise the “phenomena of truth and falsehood, good and evil”, he tries to limit these phenomena to the merely empirical. To say that “we decide for ourselves what is true or false, good or evil” is a trivialisation of these phenomena, as if truth and the good never imposed themselves with undeniable authority on our minds and consciences. “The daunting moral dilemmas we face in the modern world, especially in my own field of genetics” would not be daunting at all if one did not believe in non-empirical values such as human dignity and freedom. To say that we live in a world invented by humankind is to miss the powerful presence of things that humans clearly did not invent, beginning with being itself.

Prof McConnell’s complaints against historical Christianity – Giordano Bruno, Galileo, “a church which assures us that women are lesser creatures than men” – is that it failed to “distinguish truth and falsity, good and evil”. But in making that judgment he is again subscribing to the trans-empirical reality of truth and the good. Otherwise what is to prevent one from saying that people can “decide for themselves” whether the Earth goes round the sun or vice versa, and whether it’s acceptable to persecute freethinkers and discriminate against women? Let’s decide by rational argument, not by blind faith, he would say, but this again recognises the reality of reason, something that is clearly much more than a human invention or a merely empirical datum. – Yours, etc,


Sophia University,


Sir, – Further to the recent debate concerning RTÉ’s plans to stop broadcasting on longwave, it is worth noting that in the event of a national emergency, important information concerning civil defence would be given to the public by radio as this is the most effective medium of communication for all the public, especially via battery-powered portable radios.

Neither the internet, digital radio, mobile phone nor TV services can be relied upon in an emergency due to limited access, bandwidth congestion and reception difficulties.

Many people do not possess portable digital radios but every cheap portable radio, ideal for emergency use, has either medium wave (AM) or longwave (LW), together with VHF (FM).

Longwave is unsurpassed in its ability to penetrate steel-framed buildings, deep valleys, underground carparks and rail or road tunnels, the places where the public might be expected to congregate.

It is the duty of RTÉ is to provide a public service as well as entertainment. If RTÉ wants to save money, it could consider ending TV transmissions after midnight that cater for a very limited audience. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I recently made an online request for my Irish Water account number. I received a politely worded response indicating it was not possible to supply this information by email for data protection reasons. Perfectly acceptable. However, the email concluded, “Sorry for any incontinence caused”. Am I entitled to have my “leak” repaired for free? – Yours, etc,


Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Irish Independent:

Doesn’t anything relating to politics make for depressing reading of late? Who can we trust? What direction are we going? And – most importantly for the Irish – who can we blame?! Fianna Fail brought us the biggest harvest. We lorded it, spent too much, made bad decisions and lost it all. The result? Boot them out.

Fine Gael were elected on a landslide by promising to change the way politics works and were prepared to make the hard decisions. Austerity was here. They stuck to the Brian Lenihan four-year plan and had the balls to implement it. We did not get to the Promised Land, but we seem to be on high enough ground to see it.

Unfortunately we – the “great unwashed” – don’t see it that way, we have enough of austerity. Result, kick them out and make way for the “Shinners” and Independents. The Shinners will abolish water rates and the household charge, but are like the bold schoolboy who copied his homework – they have the answer, but can’t explain the mathematics that got him there.

The Independents seem to have inhaled too much of what was exhaled by a former colleague and will be happy doing a “Jackie Healy-Rae” deal when the time comes. Sure, you have to look after number one. Back at square one again, nothing learned!

Well, I’m off to bed now, already tired of the word politics. I hope I’ll fall into a nice deep sleep listening to the therapeutic sound of rainwater slowing filling up my toilet cistern. Meanwhile, the rest of you run around like a flock of frightened sheep looking for a gap in the ditch which will lead you to the promised land.

If you want to know who destroyed this country then just look in the mirror. Until Ireland and its politicians have the maturity to properly analyse its problems and explain the solutions (and we, the people of Ireland, have the confidence in our parliament to implement them) we’re all fecked.

Through all of Ireland’s troubles the only ones that remained in situ were the senior civil servants who advised the government/schoolteachers what to do and, indeed, are still doing it. It is they who run the country.

Thank God, we Irish have someone left to blame. I think Mark Twain had those very people in mind when he said “they would never have given us the vote if they thought it made any difference”.

Eugene McGuinness

Kilkenny city

No light for Death Row inmates

In her column (Irish Independent, October 18) Mary Kenny tells us that in Texas, where they still have the death penalty, the ‘last cigarette’ for a condemned prisoner is now prohibited on heath and safety grounds.

A clear sign that smoking can be a death sentence?

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

Legacy of Cumann na mBan

In reply to James Woods (Irish Independent, October 16) Cumann na mBan supported a regime change that, when it took place, denied them their human rights. The right to work in the civil service was changed, the old age pension was reduced for women, the right to divorce and contraceptives were removed as was the right to serve on juries. Farms were taken off unmarried women.

All this was happening in a context of improving human rights in Britain. The welfare state was enacted with free education and free health. Cumann na mBan had poor vision and poor spirit not to fight for their human rights. As regards Constance Markievicz, she had the heart of a lion and the brains of a sheep.

The big oppressor is ignorance. We need revolutionaries to help us to keep pace in a hi-tech race, by making superior products by innovative methods to bring prosperity to the country.

People with an economic vision know that a nation is only an imagined community. A significant economic unit in a creative scientific interdependent world would have been the unity of Britain and the US. All significant innovations were Anglo-American. The cure for TB and polio came from this creative scientific community and their use in Ireland was delayed by sectarian bigotry. Thousands died or were maimed as a consequence.

Kate Casey

Limerick city

Help our children, minister

An open letter to Jan O’Sullivan, Minister for Education and Skills.

We are parents of children who attend St Michael’s House Special National School in Baldoyle. This school caters for children who are severely and profoundly disabled.

Last July, we were shocked and dismayed to hear there would be a further cut to teaching staff and to the number of special needs assistants (SNA) in this school. As I am sure you are aware, this school lost a teacher in each of the last three years. Children who attend this school not only have severe to profound intellectual disabilities, but many also have severe to profound physical disabilities and other highly-complex needs.

Much of the school day is taken up with personal care such as PEG feeding (tube feeding), toileting, dealing with seizures, hoisting, ensuring the safety of the mobile children, repositioning of children throughout the day and dealing with various medical issues.

This takes up most, if not all, of the SNAs’ time. As a result, the teachers are trying to teach our children in groups. Ideally, the vast majority of pupils who attend this school need intensive and discrete 1:1 teaching time if they are to attend, learn and achieve their individual education plan goals.

Along with many others, we wrote to you during the summer about this situation. At the time our letters were forwarded to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) for their attention.

The NCSE then replied to us that – in their advice paper published in May 2013 entitled “Supporting Students with Special Needs in Schools” – they had recommended that special schools for severe/profound learning disabilities should be allowed to establish one class group on a pupil-teacher ratio of 4:1 (Section 27.2). The NCSE submitted this policy advice to the Minister for Education and Skills in 2013. To date, this recommendation has clearly been ignored.

Regarding the cuts to the number of special needs assistants in the school, we are now extremely worried about the health and safety impact of this on our children. As a result of the cuts to SNA numbers, there are now larger groups of children in each classroom.

We are extremely worried that the logistics of this is unworkable for these severely/profoundly-disabled children. To give you just one example, a mobile child can pull a feeding tube from a more vulnerable child.

It has been announced in last week’s Budget that there will be an additional 1,700 teacher and SNA posts created. In light of this, we are asking you to please reverse the appalling decision regarding the loss of a teacher and special needs assistants from this school.

Can you tell us please if the lost teachers and SNAs will be reinstated? And, if not, can you please outline to us how you intend to maintain both health and safety and educational standards in this school?

We would very much welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with you.

Fiona Murphy Anna Hayes

Representing Parents’ Association of St Michael’s House Special National School, Baldoyle, Dublin 13

Irish Independent


October 19, 2014

19 October 2014 Books

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day I manage to sell three books

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down duck for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Sir John Bradfield – obituary

Sir John Bradfield was the financial brain who transformed the fortunes of Trinity College, Cambridge

Sir John Bradfield

Sir John Bradfield

6:00PM BST 18 Oct 2014


SIR JOHN BRADFIELD, who has died aged 89, was an outstandingly successful and enterprising college bursar who turned Trinity College, Cambridge, into the richest of all the Oxbridge colleges, while kick-starting what has become known as the “Cambridge Phenomenon” — the explosion of technology, life sciences and service companies that has occurred in the city since the 1970s — by founding Europe’s first “science park”.

Under his predecessor, Tressilian Nicholas, the focus of Trinity’s investment portfolio had been agricultural land. After Bradfield stepped into his shoes in 1956, the college increased the percentage of its capital held in equities and pursued a strategic move towards commercial property development.

The foundation for Trinity’s huge financial success in the following years was the acquisition by Nicholas in 1933 of the Trimley estate of nearly 3,800 acres in Suffolk, along the road from Ipswich to the then derelict port of Felixstowe. Nicholas thought that the estate might become valuable for housing development; but as the port, free from the stranglehold of the old Dock Labour Scheme, began to develop in the early 1960s under new ownership, Bradfield surmised that, with Trinity’s help, it could become a competitor to Rotterdam and Le Havre.

He borrowed money to put up buildings to let on part of the estate, and, after helping to fight off nationalisation plans by the Labour administration in the 1970s, made use of his contacts book to persuade Margaret Thatcher’s government to introduce enabling legislation, setting in motion a process which has seen Felixstowe develop, mostly on Trinity-owned land, into Britain’s largest container port.

At around the same time, inspired by the latest thinking in America on how to foster links between universities and industry, he conceived the idea – revolutionary at the time – of establishing a “science park”, on a 140-acre farm just north of Cambridge that the college had owned since the time of Henry VIII.

The Napp building at the Cambridge Science Park

The notion was enthusiastically received by Harold Wilson, the prime minister, and by his technology minister Tony Benn, who was pressing the universities to commercialise their research.

Founded in 1970, the Cambridge Science Park started slowly as Bradfield, working closely with Sir Francis Pemberton of the property consultants Bidwells, struggled to get it up and running in the depths of the early 1970s economic gloom. By 1978 only seven companies had signed up for premises.

However, the development gathered momentum in the 1980s, with tenants ranging from small software companies created by groups of graduates from the university’s computing and engineering departments, to multinational firms such as Schlumberger and IBM, keen to establish what Bradfield described as “listening posts” tuned into research being carried out in the university’s laboratories.

By 2010, when the park celebrated its 40th anniversary, it could boast nearly 100 firms employing more than 5,000 people.

During Bradfield’s time as Trinity bursar, from 1956 to 1992, when retail prices increased 12 times, the college’s external revenue rose nearly 80-fold, from £200,000 to £15.3 million, while the value of shares in its trust fund increased nearly 30 times. In the early 1950s Trinity had been lagging behind King’s in the college wealth tables. By 2006 the college’s external revenue was £33 million, while King’s had dropped to third place (lagging behind St John’s) with £4.1 million.

When Rab Butler was Master of Trinity, he liked to boast that the college’s new-found wealth had enabled it to harbour as many Nobel prizewinners as in the whole of France. Among other things, it financed major college extension plans which more than doubled the size of the college.

Trinity Great Court: Bradfield increased college revenue by 80 times

But Bradfield was keen to reassure Trinity’s rivals that the money would benefit the university more generally. In 1964, together with the bursars of St John’s and Caius, he was instrumental in the foundation of Darwin College, to meet the need for more fellowships and better accommodation for graduate students. In 1988, at a time of cutbacks in higher education funding, Trinity established the Newton Trust, a multi-million-pound fund to help the university’s research costs and student scholarships.

John Richard Grenfell Bradfield was born in Cambridge on May 20 1925 and educated at Cambridge and County High School for Boys, from where he won a scholarship to Trinity to read Natural Sciences. He went on to take a PhD, and was appointed to a research fellowship in cell biology. In one of his studies he borrowed his mother’s chickens to elucidate how the eggshell is secreted within the adult hen, and became the first to report that the shell forms with the sharp end nearest the exit, before rotating 180 degrees just before laying. Other work included protein synthesis and secretion in the silk glands of caterpillars and spiders, and plant enzymes. He would no doubt have gone on to a distinguished career as a biologist had he not accepted the job of college bursar, which he took in 1956 after serving as junior bursar for five years.

As well as his investments at Felixstowe and the Cambridge Science Park, in the 1960s Bradfield purchased land in Kent, which was developed into a business and science park within easy reach of the Channel Tunnel. The huge success of his investments allowed him to be sanguine when Trinity was named as one of the biggest losers from the collapse of Polly Peck in 1990. While admitting to being somewhat irritated, Bradfield could reassure his colleagues that it would not mean “soup at High Table”.

Bradfield served as the first chairman of the Addenbrooke’s NHS Trust, from 1993 to 1997, and as last chairman of the Commission for New Towns. He was also a founding trustee of the Fund for Addenbrooke’s (now the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust).

John Bradfield was appointed CBE in 1986 and knighted in 2007.

He married, in 1951, Jane Wood, who survives him with their son.

Sir John Bradfield, born May 20 1925, died October 13 2014


King's Cross railway station in London United Kingdom King’s Cross station in its new glory. Photograph: Iain Masterton /Alamy

I enjoyed Rowan Moore’s article (“All hail the new King’s Cross – but can other developers repeat the trick?”, New Review) with its enthusiastic support for the approach adopted by the developer Argent. There is merit in the simple, robust architecture but I’m with Michael Edwards in wishing there was more for the community.

Although the article did acknowledge the role of Camden’s planners since 2000, the new King’s Cross now emerging owes much to the work of these planners over several decades, reaching back to the 1970s. I am thinking of the influence they had on the appearance of the British Library, the efforts they made (along with others) to bring the St Pancras Midland hotel back to use, the sheer hard work they put into the parliamentary bills necessary to make St Pancras the Eurostar terminus, their dogged pursuit of the need to create a new transport interchange and remove the hideous booking office in front of King’s Cross station to reveal its beautiful facade and create a new square.

I was director of planning (and later environment) from 1986-96 and remember meetings I had with Central St Martins College to encourage it to come to King’s Cross along with other cultural and educational activities. My point is that the success or otherwise of the development of an area as complex and sensitive as King’s Cross cannot be attributed solely to the developer, community groups or planners who happen to be there when things eventually emerge. There have been some truly brilliant Camden planners and politicians, far too many to mention, who have left their mark on King’s Cross. They know who they are.

David Pike

London N5

Really cross about Crossrail

On principle, I don’t really mind that our transport system has been “renationalised” (“Dutch and Germans pocket benefits while British taxpayers are being taken for a ride”, Business). After all, the Dutch, German and French beneficiaries are compatriots in the European Union and we must be able to share in any general prosperity that results. I draw the line, however, at Crossrail being operated by MTR Corporation, owned by that exemplar of freedom and democracy, the government of the special administrative region of Hong Kong. You couldn’t make it up.

David Jackson



My Liverpool northern soul

No argument, northern soul was established and popularised in Wigan during the 1970s (“My life as a northern soul boy: flashback to rebellion on the 1970s dancefloor”, New Review). However, living in Liverpool at the age of 18, I can remember going to dances at Reeces ballroom in Parker Street that were a prototype form of northern soul. There was no evident DJ and the records played were American black R&B, Motown or soul, including Martha and the Vandellas, Dancing in the Street and Heatwave and Twist and Shout by the Isley Brothers. Unlike other dance events I attended, young black men were very much in evidence. They had enviable dance moves, including moonwalk. Unfortunately, there were no black girls at these dances, possibly due to parental authority at the time.

Jack Eaton

Pont Robert, Meifod

Don’t judge all priests by one

It is a pity that Catherine Deveney (The View From…, Comment) takes such a myopic view of the first few days of the synod in Rome. Yes, the “rightwing” (her words) Cardinal Burke says “no” to parents of a gay son who asks whether he can invite his partner to Christmas dinner. Apart from the fact that ordinary Catholic laity are invited to address this synod and voice their questions on many sexual issues, I would suspect that other cardinals and bishops at the synod might take an alternative view from Cardinal Burke. Pope Francis has been quoted on such issues, saying that we can never judge.

John Southworth


We need debates on class

How refreshing to see the word “class” mentioned in an article (“Who cares about normal women’s work-life balance?”, Comment). In the good old 70s and 80s, we discussed inequalities in sex, race, sexuality and class. It seems “class” issues went out of vogue somewhere along the way with the Blair years. It’s not a north/south divide – it’s a class divide; many women do have material equality but very many on low wages do not. Maybe if we had kept real and honest debates on “class” simmering, the political landscape might not be in the mess it is now!

Debbie Cameron


You’re not selling it very well

Francis Ingham, of the Public Relations Consultants Association, seeks to demonstrate the value of the PR “industry” by claiming that the average salary in it is £54,000 pa. (Letters). At a time of pay freezes for health workers, this seems to display a strange lack of self-awareness.

Better PR required, I think.

John Old



nigel farage Nigel Farage’s party seems to some voters a viable alternative in their disenchantment with the mainstream parties. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Observer

Sarah Wollaston was elected MP for Totnes in May 2010 after winning the UK’s first American-style primary election – open to every voter in Totnes – for the Conservative candidacy. Four years later, there has been no movement on getting “real people” elected (“Ukip has risen on the back of broken politics”, leading article).

Labour is entrenched in its old ways. A growing number of politicians on all sides seem to have slid into politics via public relations, short-lived media jobs and thinktanks. Few of them appear to have got their hands dirty working in manufacturing, agriculture, services or not-for-profit work.

This lack of “real” world experience and an informed view of how people live creates a lack of empathy with the electorate. Reinforce this with the culture of parliament that engenders delusions of adequacy and power that inevitably corrupts sensibility. Then add to this lethal cocktail the continuing downward trajectory of the turnout of the electorate and you will end up with politicians pinning the blame on someone else, usually the other party, and when that fails, the electorate.

The malaise and its treatment rests entirely with the politicians to provide a dynamic for positive political reform where it counts – at the ballot box.

Chris Hodgkins

London W13

I share the alienation from Westminster politics of Ukip supporters. Cameron richly deserves his acute discomfort. He has been throwing the “red meat” of reheated Thatcherism at the ultra-rightwing since 2010. This has simply whetted their appetite for more. The Lib Dems, whom I supported repeatedly in my Tory/Lib Dem marginal constituency, have lost all credibility with their duplicity and stupidity in giving the Tories the opportunity, without a mandate, to shrink the state, privatise public services and immiserate the most vulnerable.

This ought to be an open goal for Labour but their leadership is woeful and lack a coherent centre/left populist agenda that would bring potential voters, like myself, back in droves. This agenda requires a clean break with the discredited neoliberal narrative that has deformed Britain since 1979.

It should include the renationalisation of rail, energy and water and an end to being ripped off by the City and corporate capital. Until Labour is led by someone with passion and character, such as Margaret Hodge, Alan Johnson or Andy Burnham, it will continue to drift towards the electoral rocks.

Philip Wood



Analyses of the Ukip phenomenon are of value, but a serious probe at Labour’s grassroots yields a more straightforward historic explanation. In the heady and somewhat juvenile early days of New Labour it was often understood, and I have actually heard it said: “We don’t need to bother about the working class, the less well off or sink-estate votes because they’ll have to stick with Labour, they’ve nowhere else to go.”

Unfortunately for self-righteousness, time passes. Loyalties fade as new generations arise. Politicians start to look all the same – and ordinary folk find that there is, after all, somewhere else to go. The politically vigorous in Scotland turned to independence. The ignored in the rest of the UK turn to Ukip. This can be cured, but only by a once-for-all abandonment of the top-down PR-style politics of the last 20 years and a fully-blown democracy of the people themselves, a vigorous, even passionate electorate that includes the sink estates as well as those who travel business class.

Can Ed Miliband do it? Hand on heart, I believe he is the very best man for the job: his background, his intelligence and his heart tell me so.

Ian Flintoff

(former Labour parliamentary candidate and Kensington councillor)



I’m not sure in what sense Jamie Merrill finds it “refreshing” that Natalie Bennett is open about describing herself as a “watermelon” (Interview, 12 October). Is it refreshing that the party is becoming red rather than green, or refreshing that what looks like duplicity is being revealed?

This is one side of a trend in environmental politics which should alarm us all. That is the false association of environmentalist concerns with one or other of the left-right wings of traditional politics. While the Green Party continues to raise the issue of climate change, there is an increasing push to blame capitalism and see the solution as socialism. This plays into the hands of the climate-change deniers who want people to believe that climate change is a myth dreamed up as part of a socialist plot.

At the same time, the Green Party has abandoned any pretence of tackling population growth – a primary green concern – and its connection with ecological sustainability, apparently because to do so would require a more nuanced approach to migration than shouting “racism”, thus a central green concern is treated as if it was a preserve of the right. The world’s environmental problems belong at the centre of politics. Their answers lie in realism and practicalities, not in the outdated dogma of left/right politics.

Christopher Padley


Patrick Cockburn misses the context of President Obama’s “plan” (“US strategy in tatters as Isis marches on,” 12 October). Obama has no intention of destroying Islamic State (Isis). Rather, he is engaging in deception to prevent a pincer’s pinch on election day (4 November) that will cause his Democratic Party to lose its Senate majority. One arm of the pincer is the Americans who know that General David Petraeus masterminded victory in Iraq, and President Obama threw it away by not leaving soldiers there to guarantee the peace. He thinks bombing Isis will placate these voters.

The other arm is a large segment of the Democratic Party that rejects US intervention anywhere. President Obama does not want to turn off these voters by engaging in serious military action in Iraq and Syria.

Scott Varland

Purley, Greater London

How can you compare food prices based on the cost per calorie (Ellen E Jones, 12 October)? Healthy food by its nature is generally lower in calories then junk food, so 1,000 calories’ worth of broccoli is going to cost more than 1,000 calories of junk food. I don’t understand how this draws the conclusion healthy food is rising in price faster than junk food.

Alison Wood


Years ago, along with other proud parents, I was invited to hear our children play their musical offerings for their GCSEs. Sitting through Mozart, Beethoven and so on applauded to the roof, my daughter’s rendering of the Twin Peaks theme was met with the same reaction the show had, bewilderment. Twin Peaks and my daughter were obviously ahead of their time. A remake (Simmy Richman, 12 October) will never recapture the magic!

Mary Hodgson


I am surprised that Bill Granger’s autumn-fruit recipes feature fruits already out of season. Blueberries and plums are long finished, even autumn raspberries have come to the end of their season. Blackberries in October are known as the “fruit of the Devil” and elderberries by now are only fit for the birds.

Jo Burrill

Hexham, Northumberland

It was not Oscar Wilde’s testimony “against the Marquess of Queensberry” that consisted of “absurd and silly perjuries”, as you incorrectly quoted me as saying (Letters, 12 October). The “absurd and silly perjuries” Wilde subsequently referred to were the lies he told when he denied under cross-examination that he had had sexual relations with various youths who had given statements to Queensberry’s solicitors.

Antony Edmonds

Waterlooville, Hampshire



Workers from other European states fill many important roles, including barista, for the minimum wage Photo: Jeff Gilbert

6:56AM BST 18 Oct 2014


SIR – Amid the clamour to restrict immigration fuelled by the Rochester by-election, one thing seems to have been forgotten. Indigenous Britons simply do not want to do the jobs so willingly occupied by those from other European states for the minimum wage.

Who will clean our public lavatories, serve refreshments in countless coffee joints, take menial but important jobs in nursing homes or harvest vegetables in the fields of Lincolnshire?

If foreign labour is excluded from categories of work that silently keep the country going, we will all pay a heavy price.

Peter Mahaffey
Cardington, Bedfordshire

Paying for the NHS

SIR – It is a common misconception that the NHS is paid for out of National Insurance contributions (Letters, October 16). Access to NHS treatment is based on residency, not on NI contributions.

It is for this very reason that visitors to Britain should (unless benefiting from certain exemptions) be obliged to pay for any treatment they receive – particularly for expensive operations and for pre-existing conditions. That the NHS does not recoup much of the payment owed depletes the coffers of much-needed revenue.

Liz Edmunds
Hassocks, West Sussex

SIR – Letters from my NHS hospital consultant now include the date when they were dictated. From this, I can work out that it takes at least three weeks for a letter to be typed and posted.

Apparently it isn’t clinical and nursing pressures that cause long waiting times, but the inability to run an office.

Dr Stephen Bell
Woodbridge, Suffolk

On the one hand

SIR – When my father was at primary school early in the last century, he received several smacks for being left-handed but persevered. However, he lost his left arm in a road accident and so became right-handed.

While the Duke of Cambridge may claim that all the cleverest people are left-handed, I would argue that the brightest are ambidextrous. Like the cricketer David Gower, I bat and deal cards with my left hand, mainly write right-handed and use a screwdriver with whichever hand can best get at the screw.

Duncan Wood
Bean, Kent

SIR – I would like to explain the difficulties for a rightie married to a leftie.

My husband is certainly a leftie when it comes to hanging clothes in the wardrobe, making it difficult to get an item out since the hook is the wrong way round, and he always has the boiling kettle turned so that steam drifts into the shelves above.

Dancing has always been impossible as he wants to grab my left hand and turn me in a difficult manoeuvre, which takes the edge off my excellent moves.

Rosemary Almond
Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire

By any other name

SIR – Though divorced I retain my married name (Letters, October 17), because I have held it for longer than my maiden name and therefore it is who I am. Should I marry again, then maybe I will have a change of heart and surname.

Reverting after 30 years of marriage seems a very odd thing to do.

Heather M Tanner
Earl Soham, Suffolk

“We have two major problems in Germany – the recession and the long waiting list for a new Mercedes” Photo: Alamy

6:57AM BST 18 Oct 2014


SIR – I find Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s views on Germany’s apparent economic woes difficult to reconcile with my impressions as a resident of Germany.

After much infrastructure investment in eastern Germany, attention has again turned westward. Ambitious projects, such as the high-speed rail link between Frankfurt and Cologne, are finished – albeit usually late and over budget.

When I moved here in 1991, Germany was apparently in a recession. My then-boss told me: “Yes, we have two major problems in Germany – the recession and the long waiting list for a new Mercedes. Don’t worry about it.”

Matthew Whittall
Schönaich, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Jobs for the disabled

SIR – If it costs an employer the same whoever does the job, why would they employ someone less able (Letters, October 17)?

It is a social welfare issue and should not be outsourced to the private sector. But it can go too far: the Government’s own figures suggest that each job in the state’s disabled enterprise, Remploy, costs the taxpayer £25,000.

Ian Johnson
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Imported road kill

SIR – Frances Evans writes of suicidal pheasants on the roads.

Many poults are raised in France before being shipped to these shores for sport. Perhaps road manners picked up on the Continent ultimately contribute to their death in Britain.

Nicholas Sherriff
London SW11

A local Liberian artist paints a mural forming part of the countrys fight against the deadly Ebola virus by education in the city of Monrovia, Liberia Photo: AP

6:59AM BST 18 Oct 2014


SIR – Fraser Nelson (Ebola may be gruesome but it’s not the biggest threat to Africa, October 17) states that poverty is the root cause of Africa’s problems.

One of the main reasons for this poverty is the continent’s rapidly increasing population, which continues to outstrip its ability to feed itself. The population in Nigeria has increased by 300 per cent in the last 40 years: that in Ethiopia by 380 per cent. Even developed nations would find it almost impossible to cope with such burgeoning increases.

In order to reduce this poverty, resources must first be concentrated on stabilising the population growth by introducing contraception methods such as vasectomy. As harsh as it sounds, there seems little point in reducing child mortality if children are subsequently to starve. In tandem with birth control, the developed world must invest in agriculture and industry to enable Africans to feed and support themselves.

Such investment ought to be managed by donors as many African leaders are renowned for diverting aid money for their own use, particularly in procuring arms.

It is time that the United Nations managed controlled change instead of just fighting fires.

Tony Ellis
Northwood, Middlesex

SIR – As we now have to face the prospect of the global spread of infectious diseases such as Ebola, we must surely begin to pay even more attention to public hygiene.

When one sees the disgusting state of many of our bank’s hole-in-the-wall cash machines, I do wonder if we are overlooking a potential source of infection.

Should not banks and retailers be obliged by law to clean these devices regularly with a powerful disinfectant?

Richard Mann
Bideford, Devon

SIR – There seems little point in border checks for potential Ebola victims if we proactively import infected patients who then, due to arguably foreseeable errors, infect their carers.

Laurence Williams
Louth, Lincolnshire

The Big Smoke: an anti-rudeness campaign in Marseille’s Saint-Charles railway station  Photo: GERARD JULIEN/AFP/GettyImages

7:00AM BST 18 Oct 2014


SIR – Owing to a medical condition, my husband rarely takes walks. When visiting parks or gardens, he will sit on a bench and have a smoke while I take a short walk around on my own. A ban on smoking in public parks would deny both of us this small pleasure.

If the sight of smokers is considered dangerous for children, then I would argue that they cannot be protected from all dangers in life – encountering them is how they learn to make choices.

Jennifer Edwards
Sidcup, Kent

SIR – Lord Darzi’s proposal to introduce a smoking ban for public areas such as parks is welcome. Children are influenced by the behaviour of adults. Two-thirds of adult smokers admit that they began to smoke before the age of 18, and almost two-fifths before the age of 16.

Some 200,000 children in Britain take up smoking every year – that’s 550 every day – increasing their risk of chest infections and asthma, as well as lung cancer and heart problems later in life.

If we are to help prevent smoking in young people, then changing the environment is essential, but this must be coupled with measures such as high-quality personal, social and health education lessons in schools.

Prof Mitch Blair
Officer for Health Promotion, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
London WC1

SIR – As far as I am aware, smoking is not illegal, unlike many other addictive habits. It may be undesirable and unhealthy, but there are millions of people who are hooked on cigarettes and need them just as much as I need my six mugs of tea a day.

To prevent hospital patients, who are under a lot of stress, from having a quick puff outside the hospital (Letters, October 17) would be cruel.

I used to wheel my mother round the garden of her rehab unit and she looked forward to her daily cigarette in the fresh air. She had smoked since she joined the Army in 1940 and was given her first one.

Incidentally, what did make her give up her six-a-day habit was the cost of a pack of 20 in comparison to what £7.50 would provide for a hungry child in Africa.

Jane O’Nions
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – It’s not the smoke, it’s the filthy fag ends.

S A Langton
London N1

SIR – Why stop at banning smoking in parks and public places? How about closing all pubs, off-licences and wine outlets to stop the exorbitant cost of alcohol abuse?

For that matter, let’s ban all fast-food joints and vending machines, as they contribute to obesity; and why not limit car ownership to essential users, as the automobile causes too much pollution.

Alice Harper
Colchester, Essex

Wit, whimsy – and not a single item about Gordon Brown. It was a bumper year for a collection of unpublished letters to the Telegraph

This year, the sixth in a row, Iain Hollingshead says there is no subject too weighty not to be punctured by the readers’ ready wit

This year, the sixth in a row, Iain Hollingshead says there is no subject too weighty not to be punctured by the readers’ ready wit Photo: Clara Molden/The Telegraph

By Iain Hollingshead

7:20AM BST 18 Oct 2014


Is there a conspiracy to keep women off the letters pages? During the summer, someone counted all the letters to the Financial Times over a three-week period and found that just three were written by women. Frankly, the more surprising revelation was that the pink paper had a letters page. After all, where’s the fun in debating the FTSE compared with swapping tips on how best to swing bowl an unwanted snail into a neighbour’s garden?

There is, of course, no conspiracy. The letters editors at The Daily Telegraph are gender-blind, colour-blind and even county-blind, despite accusations that we only print letters from Dorset. Men are, perhaps, more prone to being gloriously and eccentrically alone in thinking the way they do. They certainly write more often, and at greater length. Yet the criteria for publication are the same whether you’re Lt-Cdr Joe Bloggs (retd) from Blandford Forum, Dorset or Josephine Bloggs from Dobcross, West Yorkshire.

The same goes for the hundreds of letters which, for whatever reason, don’t make the newspaper but appear in the books of previously unpublished letters. This year, the sixth in a row, is, I believe, a particularly bumper crop. There is no subject too weighty not to be punctured by the readers’ ready wit.

This was the year of Putin and Pietersen, Sharon and Suarez, Harris and Holland and, thankfully, for the first time since these books began, not a single letter about Gordon Brown. Whether explaining Ukip’s rise through the horrors of Eurovision or wondering how to insure the Lamborghini on which they might blow their pension pot, one thing is certain: no one has any idea what they will think of next.

Family life and tribulations

SIR – Walking in a Brighton street I was surprised when an elderly lady going in the opposite direction muttered, “You sexy beast.” I am 81. It made my day.

Richard Pitcairn-Knowles, Otford, Kent

SIR – When I married, 48 years ago, my bride and I, as naturists, were clothed as were Adam and Eve. The priest, a fellow naturist, was similarly naked. Give or take the odd wrinkle, our wedding attire has been in daily use as foundation garments, topped invariably, in my case, by a regimental tie.

Lt-Col A. St. John-Grahame (retd), Whitstable, Devon

SIR – I recently celebrated my 60th birthday. My dear wife’s present to me was a new “health band”. Its principal function appears to be to send an alert to my wife’s iPad whenever I sit still for longer than 12 minutes. She assures me this guarantees I will live to a ripe old age. Isn’t progress wonderful?

J.C., London SW6

SIR – For days now you have forecast dark clouds and lightning over Gloucestershire while the weather has been generally sunny and warm. Are you actually forecasting an unplanned visit by my mother-in-law? Please clarify.

Martyn Dymott, Gloucester

SIR – Sex after 50, asks your report? I should say so! My partner and I are in our late seventies and still enjoy a stimulating and fulfilling sex life. Long may it continue!


SIR – Now that my throwing of unwanted garden snails has been curtailed by arthritis, I am considering making a scaled-down medieval trebuchet. Searching in our barn for suitable materials, I came across an old clay pigeon trap. Trials last evening, witnessed by my dog, have proved most effective, with considerable distances achieved.

This method may not be practical for town dwellers. So for those living on the South Coast, could I suggest putting unwanted English snails in strawberry punnets attached to balloons? A brisk prevailing wind should achieve a speedy Channel crossing, possibly sparking off competitive snail flying races and, at the same time, feeding hungry Frenchmen.

Paul Spencer Schofield, Harewood, West Yorkshire

Sporting triumph and disaster

SIR – Just when it appears that matters cannot get any worse, we are subject to the England captain telling us in the post-match press conference that “only Broads and Stokesie came out of the series with any credit”. I despair. Somebody should remind “Cookie” (pictured) that he is in charge of the national team, not the local pub team, and that in the current circumstances a little decorum is required.

Neil Parsons, Laceby, Lincolnshire

SIR – Following the recent embarrassing performances of our national football and cricket teams, is there any way we could swap the sports over, thus playing Sri Lanka at football, and Uruguay and Italy at cricket?

Bob McCallum, Waltham St Lawrence, Berkshire

SIR – Not being in the same room as the television, but well within earshot, I was unsure if I was listening to Wimbledon or Casualty.

John Townshend, South Wootton, Norfolk

SIR – Yorkshire embraced the Tour de France with magnificence: hospitality, friendly atmosphere, beautiful scenery and roads lined with supporters. Cambridge, meanwhile, complained because one road is going to be closed for a few hours. Does this prove once and for all that Northerners are more friendly?

Janice Moss, Altrincham, Cheshire

SIR – The biggest surprise of the English stage of the Tour was that no cyclists were seen on the pavements.

Guy Rose, London SW14

Royal flushes

SIR – Many congratulations to Prince Philip on his 93rd birthday. I see he is going to Germany on Thursday. Where does he get his travel insurance?

Brian Baxter, Oakington, Cambridgeshire

SIR – While watching the Prince of Wales touring the Somerset Levels, I spotted his tie. For the life of me I cannot remember him attending Consett Grammar, but then he must have been four forms above me.

David Laybourne, Ilfracombe, Devon

SIR – We should send Prince Harry to the Antipodes, to prove we can be just as mental as they are, thus preserving the Commonwealth.

David Alsop, Churchdown, Gloucestershire

Anti-social media

SIR – Having endured the Eurovision Song Contest, any remaining doubts I might have had about voting Ukip have now been dispelled.

Allan Kirtley, Valley End, Surrey

Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst of Austria (GETTY)

SIR – In future Eurovision Song Contests, to avoid political voting and expensive razzmatazz, I think the female singer with the best beard should be declared the winner.

Nairn Lawson, Portbury, Somerset

SIR – Both Melita Norwood, the KGB spy, and Rolf Harris were exposed in their early eighties as wicked people. Harris, quite rightly, has felt the full force of the law. Unfairly, Letty, as she was known during her childhood friendship with my Aunt Blanche, was spared police action.

On the other hand, Harris did not have to suffer the ignominy of being crossed off my aunt’s Christmas card list.

Rosemary Earle, Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – The BBC’s production of Jamaica Inn included, unusually, not one Scottish accent, so I rather enjoyed it.

Paul Downey, Cutwell, Gloucestershire

A year in politics

SIR – A headline states: “Lord Rennard could sue his way back into Lib Dem Party.” Pray, why would he bother?

Colin Cummings, Yelvertoft, Northamptonshire

SIR – Although I hate to admit it, I have to side with EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker when he says David Cameron has no common sense. Cameron may have had an Eton education, but he has zilch up top. No way would I trust him on the battlefield. He would be a disaster.

Lt-Col Dale Hemming-Tayler (retd), Edith Weston, Rutland

SIR – Blow my pension fund on a Lamborghini? I think not. Like most over-55s, even if I could get into one, I certainly wouldn’t be able to get out.

Michael Gilbert, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

The use and abuse of language

SIR – Having just read the letters about waiters saying “Enjoy”, I thought I must tell you that I went into our local cut-price chemists to buy some loo rolls and the young man, as he handed them to me, said, “Enjoy”. I replied: “I’ll try.”

Graham Upton, Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – Is there no end to the Americanisation of our once proud English tongue? At Wimbledon they are now taking “a bathroom break”. I would have thought four minutes to get undressed, take a bath and get dressed again was beyond belief.

R.M. Flaherty, Auchterarder, Kinross

SIR – With regards to the “conscious uncoupling” of Gwyneth (pictured) and Chris Martin, which poor soul is going to be lumbered with that CD collection?

Marlon Zoglowek, Cam, Gloucestershire

Home thoughts on abroad

SIR – The answer to François Hollande’s affairs of the heart is that he should abandon the title of First Lady and instead institute First Mistress, Second Mistress and so on. All of his lady friends would then know where they stand – or lie down.

Ron Mason, East Grinstead, West Sussex

SIR – As the situation in the Middle East deteriorates, would now be an appropriate time for Tony Blair to reveal his divinity? I am sure that the sight of him descending into Jerusalem in clouds of glory would bring about an instant end to hostilities.

Tony Hines, Longframlington, Northumberland

SIR – Why is the battery life of the “pinger” in the 5kg black box on Flight MH370 only around 30 days, when the battery in my cardiac pacemaker, weighing 40 grams, lasts in the region of 10 years?

Dr Steven Langerman, Watford, Hertfordshire

Dear Daily Telegraph

SIR – Three pictures of Esther McVey in two days – hurrah! Has she replaced the Duchess of Cambridge as your preferred totty? Thank you on behalf of the older man.

Brian Inns, Chertsey, Surrey

SIR – Thursday’s online edition supplied Friday’s Cryptic Crossword, thus giving me a welcome head start over my wife, who completes the printed version. I wonder if you would consider extending this feature to the racing results?

Stephen McWeeney, Hartburn, Northumberland

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – Last week former government minister Liz O’Donnell called for an end to the “hounding” of Sinn Fein by people who object to their continued cheerleading for the most murderous organization this island has ever seen, namely the Provisional IRA.

Ms O’Donnell is entitled to her viewpoint but I wonder what her thoughts were if she was watching BBC’s Spotlight on Tuesday last about the rape of Mairia Cahill by a member of Sinn Fein’s republican guard in Belfast in 2010. The comparisons with Iran’s Republican Guard are striking.

There, girls who are raped by members of the Republican Guard are investigated by the same grouping, just like Mairia was, and usually found guilty.

In Iran they hang them from a crane. In Catholic Belfast, with the aid of the authorities, they hang them out to dry.

I’ve long held the belief that people in the Catholic communities in the North suffer from Stockholm Syndrome hemmed in as they are by so-called peace walls and oppressed by the tunnel vision of republicans to the point where they not only tolerate the intolerable they support it at the ballot box. Liz O Donnell has no such excuse.

Mairia Cahill needs someone to hound Sinn Fein for justice. I’m sure she’d welcome support from Liz O’Donnell.

Eddie Naughton,

The Coombe,

Dublin 8


Female answers don’t help men

Madam – Brendan O’Connor compliments Enda Kenny on the speech he gave to the Irish Association of Suicidology conference – (“A glimpse of our lost leader,” Sunday Independent, 12 October).

As someone who attended the conference I thought it was indeed a fine speech in which the Taoiseach referred to Paul Quinnett, another speak who addressed the topic: “Why can’t a man be more like a woman?”

The male suicide rate in Ireland is four times that of women. The point Paul Quinnett was making is that men are inherently “wired” differently to women as a result of countless generations of hereditary warrior-like traits being passed from one generation to the next when the name of the game with our forefathers was either kill or be killed.

Mr Quinnett maintains that this results in men being unresponsive to current mental health strategies of encouraging men to seek help. This may work for women but not for men.

He maintains a more proactive approach is needed: “Step in. Step up. Say something. Do whatever it takes to stop some guy from taking that terrifying plunge to oblivion.”

He also highlighted the importance that men place in being needed, not just wanted.

So trying to make a man like a woman will not work in suicide prevention.

Tommy Roddy



Depression needs more compassion

Madam – Tommy Deenihan’s letter (Sunday Independent, 12 October) bemoaning depressed people complaining for claiming social welfare is an utter disgrace.

Just a few days after World Mental Health day Mr. Deenihan portrays the depressed as a burden on society and stigmatises mental illnesses.

It is well known our country has a problem with depression and we can only overcome this if we take a more compassionate view toward those suffering from mental illness. I don’t think anyone would ever claim the State is squandering money by treating cancer patients. Perhaps it may comfort Mr. Deenihan that many depressed people take their own lives in order to become less of a burden on the State and their families.

John Fogarty


Co Wicklow


We need truth from Adams

Madam – When are we going to really get honesty and the truth from Mr Gerry Adams. I feel so sorry for Mairia Cahill and other victims of Sinn Fein/IRA sexual violence, and their kangaroo court.

Are they a mafia/fascist/terrorist/untouchable, above the law? What a shame that they can get away with this. Shame on the people that protect such evil.

Is this the Ireland of the future – lie down, keep quiet, don’t upset the status quo?

Una Heaton,

North Circular Road,



Now Bono can stop looking

Madam – It seems that the long search is over, Bono has finally found what he has been looking for. In an interview with the UKs Observer newspaper last week, Bono said: “We are a tiny little country, we don’t have scale, and our version of scale is to be innovative and to be clever, and tax competitiveness has brought our country the only prosperity we’ve known.”

Pride in the name of tax competitiveness, if you like.

It’s funny how the rich view the world. Tax avoidance becomes clever, innovative and somehow competitive. Another way of looking at Bono’s vision is that so-called tax competitiveness is destroying societies everywhere.

The reason governments everywhere have to sell bonds is because industry, the wealth funds that control industry, and personal wealth funds like Bono’s, have very successfully lobbied governments to the point where the profits made now are higher than at any point in history.

Corporations, hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds, then have to find some safe places to put their vast wealth; so, amongst other things, they invest in government bonds, or debt as we call it.

Simple logic suggests that if the vastly wealthy were taxed fairly, then governments everywhere would need to issue less debt bonds. I suspect Bono and his tax competitive friends will pass through the eye of a needle before they will come to see the world as poor people do.

Declan Doyle



Eight glasses is overdoing it

Madam – How disappointing to see Dr Ciara Kelly trot out that old chestnut about drinking at least eight glasses of water per day (Sunday Independent, 12 October).

Yes, the body consists mainly of water and we do need some water daily, but nothing like eight glasses which would just put unnecessary pressure on the bladder and kidneys.

The problem is that no one knows how or when this fallacy began. As one doctor said a few years ago: “I wrote a book on the benefits of water, and in spite of all my research I was unable to find out where this nonsense originated”.

Paul Reilly,




Thanks via Sindo out on the Algarve

Madam – My husband and I took a short break in the Algarve recently. We called into a church to sort out Mass times, then had a cup of coffee in a nearby cafe. As I sat down I reached into my bag to phone home.

It was with shock and dismay that I discovered my phone was not there. I was positive I had taken it with me, but just in case, we hurried back to the hotel to check the room.

It wasn’t there.

So I called reception to report it was missing in case I had mislaid it somewhere around the premises. About 20 minutes later they called me back.

Someone had found the phone in church – I had put it down on a seat while rooting in my bag for some change to light a candle and then forgotten about it.

The person who found it had phoned our home and been told where we were staying. They brought it to the hotel.. It was a great relief to me and a great start to the short holiday.

Out in the Algarve I was able to buy the Sunday Independent, so now I want to say a big thank you to the finder whoever you are.

I noticed that the Sunday Independent is very well read on the Algarve, so I am hoping this message will get through to them, via your newspaper.

(Name and address with Editor)


I don’t mind paying for water

Madam – The people make me sick marching about water charges. They should go to the poor parts of Africa where the poor women have to walk miles for a bucket of dirty water.

Tell them to go back to the 1930’s and 1940’s when we Irish had to go a mile to a pump or a well. They were grumbling about that too, and now that the government has piped all their homes with running water they are still grumbling about paying for it. I am an old age pensioner and I don’t mind paying for my water. I have to pay for everything else.

Phil Cribbin,


Co Kildare


Missing all our children abroad

Madam – Do you miss your daughter or your son/

Both been gone now for so long/

Every room seems empty since they went away/

Do you feel robbed of what should be special years/

Do you anger when some politician speaks/

Of a scheme called job creation/

€50 a week plus welfare payment

Offered to the youth of the nation/

Do you pray every time the phone rings/

That they might be home again/

But the words are the same as before/

“Sorry Mum, can’t make it home this year”/

Another year older, they’re still gone/

We’re invited to pay more for this and that/

Listen to garbage political chat/

Could an election perhaps change all of that/

Missing the love of our children in their prime/

Is indeed, a terrible, terrible crime.

Fred Molloy

Clonsilla, Dublin 15

Sunday Independent


October 18, 2014

A H Halsey – obituary

A H Halsey was a socialist academic who believed that comprehensive schools were the key to an equal society

A H Halsey

A H Halsey  Photo: Graham Turner/Guardian

Professor A H Halsey, who has died aged 91, was Britain’s first Professor of Sociology and played a key part in the 1960s, as adviser to Anthony Crosland, the Labour education secretary, in the switch to comprehensive education.

Chelly Halsey, as he was always known, was one of the last relics of the Labour academic generation that came up the hard way. But, although he himself had enjoyed a grammar school education, he believed that only the abolition of selection could bring about true equality. He was unapologetic about his belief that education should be used as an instrument in pursuit of an egalitarian society.

Halsey saw himself as an ethical socialist marching in the wake of such figures as William Temple and R H Tawney. Although he rejected revolutionary Marxism, he believed that the truth of socialism would be proved by empirical research, and that laying bare the facts would inevitably move the British people to eradicate inequality. “For me personally,” he wrote, “the class system, whether in its inherited rural form of squirearchy or its urban structure of bourgeoisie and proletariat, was always anathema.” It had to be rooted out — by force if necessary — using the tools of progressive taxation and compulsory comprehensive education.

Whether or not it ever truly existed, he was incurably nostalgic about the working-class England of the pre-war era, describing himself as a “pilgrim” who believed that “the institutions invented by the Victorian and Edwardian working class — the Unions, the Cooperative Society and the Labour Party — were the route to the New Jerusalem”. In an introduction to Twentieth-Century British Social Trends (2000) he evoked some of those qualities he missed so much, approvingly quoting George Orwell: “The crowds in the big towns, with their mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners.”

To his critics he was that most dangerous of political animals, a puritan romantic — someone who by his own admission believed in the “overwhelming importance of collective as distinct from individual experience and consciousness”. For what always seemed to be missing from Halsey’s egalitarianism was an understanding of the competitive side of human nature.

In 1974 he provoked widespread ridicule when he appealed to parents to remove their children from public schools on the ground that they were contributing to the deprivation of disadvantaged children. More reasonably, he strongly disapproved of socialists who “suddenly found exceptional reasons to send their children to non-comprehensive schools” (as well as those who accepted membership of the House of Lords).

The experience of being Crosland’s adviser was not entirely happy. Crosland, in Halsey’s view, was a disappointing minister who ducked the important decisions that needed to be taken, like abolishing the public schools. As a practical politician, Crosland balked at the idea on grounds both of individual liberty and political unpopularity. Halsey, the idealist, saw no conflict between the goals of liberty and equality and did not acknowledge the political problem.

A H Halsey

Crosland also represented a strand of 1960s liberal socialism that was alien to Halsey. Indeed, it was only Crosland’s commitment to comprehensive education that enabled Halsey to overcome his distaste for the man himself — “a profligate drinker and philanderer… alcohol, cigars, women, even opera were avidly consumed”, as Halsey recalled.

In later life, Halsey bemoaned the loss of old moral values and the breakdown of the traditional ties of family and community. But like many socialists of his generation he tended to blame society’s ills on Thatcherism, rather than on the egalitarian socialism of which he had been a prominent exponent.

The second of nine children, Albert Henry Halsey was born in Kentish Town on April 13 1923 into a patriotic Christian socialist family. His memories were of a wholly manual inheritance. His father was a railway worker and his wider family comprised hordes of skilled uncles and aunts. This early upbringing shaped his whole life. “I cannot pretend to be other than puritanical in my attitudes towards work and leisure and life,” he once admitted. “The manual uncles always haunt me, investing the stint with sacred quality.” The titles of some of Halsey’s major works reflected this early background: Social Class and Educational Opportunity (1956); Educational Priority (1972); Heredity and Environment (1977); Origins and Destinations (1980); and English Ethical Socialism (1988).

When Chelly was still an infant, the family moved to Lyddington in Rutland, then to a council estate at Corby, Northamptonshire. There they eked out a meagre income by foraging for blackberries and mushrooms and befriending the local poachers. A defining moment of Chelly’s life came when a tramp appeared at the kitchen window and stretched out his billy-can. Chelly’s mother gave the man tea and two thick slices of bread and dripping. “God bless you, Missus,” said the tramp. “Good luck to you, mate,” his mother replied.

Halsey won a scholarship to Kettering Grammar School and stayed on in the sixth form to take the exams for the clerical grade of the Civil Service. When these were cancelled at the outbreak of war, he left school aged 16 and worked as a sanitary inspector’s apprentice at £40 a year. On his 18th birthday he volunteered for active service and entered the RAF as a pilot cadet. He trained as a fighter pilot in Rhodesia and South Africa, perfecting the “aerial handbrake turn” that, he hoped, would keep him out of the way of Japanese Kamikaze pilots. He never met the Japanese in action but nearly lost his life when, practising the manoeuvre, his plane took a nose dive, recovering only yards from the ground. By the time the war ended he was a flight sergeant in the RAF medical corps.

It was the offer of further educational opportunities to men in the Armed Forces that gave Halsey his opportunity to acquire a university education. After demob, he enrolled at the London School of Economics. It was there that he met, and in 1949 married, Margaret Littler, a fellow student.

After graduating from the LSE, he took up research work in Sociology at Liverpool University then, in 1954, became a lecturer in the subject at Birmingham. In 1956-57, he took a sabbatical year in America, working at the Center for Advanced Study of the Behavioural Sciences at Palo Alto. It was at Birmingham that he undertook the work that underpinned the Labour Party’s early commitment to comprehensive education. In his first major study, Social Class and Education (with J E Floud, 1957), he explored the relationship between social class and success at 11-plus, concluding that working-class children were disadvantaged by the selective system.

In 1962 he left Birmingham as senior lecturer to become head of Barnett House, Oxford University’s department of social and administrative studies, and a professorial fellow of Nuffield College. Sociology was rather frowned upon at the time, but Halsey fought successfully to establish it as part of the academic mainstream. He became Professor of Social and Administrative studies in 1978 and also participated in university governance, serving on Oxford’s Hebdomadal Council. He devoted two books, The British Academics (1971) and The Decline of Donnish Domination (1992), to academic affairs.

Crosland appointed him his adviser on education in 1965, but after Crosland’s departure in 1967 Halsey found himself cold-shouldered by his successors. Patrick Gordon Walker made him feel like “Charlie Chaplin in City Lights where a toff would get drunk and take Charlie home, swearing eternal comradeship, and then have him thrown out in the morning as a person unknown”. Ted Short was “not much better”. Shirley Williams ignored him completely.

Surprisingly, Halsey was called upon by Mrs Thatcher in her role as education minister in the early 1970s to advise on nursery education, though she never acted on his recommendations that more money should be poured into deprived “educational priority areas” and nursery education. In the 1980s he emerged as one of the main opponents of Mrs Thatcher’s being given an honorary degree by Oxford, arguing that the university should “stand up for education against its principal oppressor”.

In 1983 he was a major contributor to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Urban Priority Areas whose report, Faith in the City, was widely dismissed by Conservatives as little better than socialist propaganda.

Not that Halsey had much time for the other political parties at this time. While he hated the extremists in the Labour Party, he disliked the breakaway Social Democrats even more, dismissing them as “middle-class Oxbridge intellectuals” whose party allegiance “did not come from childhood experience of the daily struggle that informed the politics of my own kith and kin”.

But by one of those strange quirks of politics, after his retirement in 1990 Halsey found common cause with thinkers on the Right about the disastrous effect of permissive attitudes on social cohesion. In Families without Fatherhood, which he co-wrote, and which was published in 1992 by the normally Right-wing Institute for Economic Affairs, he drew attention to the link between crime and family breakdown, harking back to “respectable” working-class family life just before and after the war, when the heart of the family was stable marriage, which anchored men into the child-rearing process.

Later the same year he criticised the way in which women had been betrayed by feminist demands for equality. Women, he felt, were now worse off than at any time since the suffragette movement because they were combining the role of breadwinner with mother.

Not surprisingly, he displayed a profound scepticism for the Islington radicals of New Labour. In a passage in his autobiography (No Discouragement, 1996), he recalled an exchange with Tony Blair over dinner in 1995. They were getting on reasonably well until Blair suddenly asked who the second most interesting character in the New Testament was and gave as his own answer Pontius Pilate.

To Halsey this was “a characteristic politician’s choice”, and he did not disguise his disapproval. His own selection, perhaps equally predictably, fell on the Good Samaritan as “a member of a despised minority engaged in direct action”. Clearly not wanting to get into deep waters, Blair immediately backtracked, remarking that, naturally, the last person he would try to emulate in power would be Pilate.

In 1977 Halsey was the BBC’s choice as its Reith lecturer. In retirement, he enjoyed gardening and woodwork, but he also continued writing. His later books included A History of Sociology in Britain (2004), followed by Changing Childhood, a history of the Halsey family, in 2009, and Essays on the Evolution of Oxford and Nuffield College in 2012.

His wife Margaret died in 2004; he is survived by their three sons and two daughters.

Professor A H Halsey, born, April 13 1923, died October 14 2014


Severe loneliness blights the lives of nearly two million people aged 50 and over in Britain.  Photo
Severe loneliness blights the lives of nearly 2 million people aged 50 and over in Britain. Photograph: Arman Zhenikeyev/Corbis

George Monbiot (Life in the age of loneliness, 15 October) does not refer to the role that our planning system has played, at least as an accomplice, in creating the loneliest “society” in Europe. During the next few years hundreds of thousands of new homes will be built, mostly following a model that could reasonably be described as “pandering to privacy”. In 1968 an American sociologist, Philip Slater, suggested that: “The longing for privacy is generated by the drastic conditions that a longing for privacy produces.” We seem to be in this vicious cycle where our individualism makes it increasingly difficult to provide mutual support and affection. Private housing is being designed to be not only privately owned but anti-social in its occupation. Planners should be engaged in the provision of co-housing where care and companionship are the norm.
Daniel Scharf
Abingdon, Oxfordshire

• Reading George Monbiot, I was surprised at the unwarranted and unexplained attack on TV. The WaveLength charity has supplied TVs and radios to lonely and isolated people living in poverty since 1939. We know TVs and radios ameliorate loneliness through the “social surrogacy hypothesis”, an effect studied by researchers at the universities of Haifa, Buffalo and Miami.

Monbiot is absolutely correct that loneliness is a scourge of our time and a leading contributor to poor mental and physical health. However, his depiction of TV as a “hedonic treadmill”, ranged on the side of selfish aspiration, jars with our experience of TV as one of very few supports left to isolated people – as well as the most accessible form of culture.

TVs and radios give WaveLength’s users something to talk about with family, friends and carers, as well as providing friendly faces and voices when they’re at their lowest. In day centres, homelessness hostels and women’s refuges, TVs become focal points for residents to meet.

Some of our users’ loneliness stems from the societal factors Monbiot describes: families dispersed to follow work, irregular public transport, erosion of pubs and cinemas. But others – living with illnesses or disabilities, struggling with addiction or escaping domestic violence – are less able to cope with regular socialising. TVs and radios give them comfort and a sense of structure when getting outside is difficult. No one would deny the painful effects of loneliness. But WaveLength’s 75 years in operation shows that isolated people have always appreciated media technology’s ability to keep their windows to the world open.
Tim Leech
Chief executive, WaveLength

• I was immensely moved by the article (Family, 11 October) about the upcoming film Radiator in which Tom Browne reflects on how he found himself trying to change his elderly parents’ lives. It rings so true with my experiences. I recall one day when I went to see my mum some time after my 95-year-old dad had died. He had survived a stroke for 10 years and in that time never left the house, and they bumped along, refusing help. I knew mum and dad always liked Wimbledon, so I turned up with scones and strawberries and made a lovely cup of tea and spread it before us. My mum watched the tennis for about five minutes, picked up the remote and put Emmerdale on. For 10 years, the soaps had rescued her from her mundane life and given her something to look forward to. I actually argued with her about turning it over. I should have taken my scone and tea and a radio and listened to the tennis in the sun in our lovely back garden in the house we had lived in for 60 years. It would have been great. I spoilt it for both of us. How I agree with Tom; we should give our parents what they enjoy and want, not what we think they “need”.
Debbie Cameron

• One of the impacts of older people being referred to as a burden (Society Guardian, 15 October) is that older people themselves start to internalise ageist views which can lead to the loneliness and depression described by George Monbiot. Ageism is rife in society, and this may be compounding problems of depression, isolation and anxiety. Many older patients I see say things like “I’m past my sell by date”, “I’m too old to be helped” and “It’s too late to change”, leading them to give up doing things they could still do, and to be pessimistic about life as an old person.

Yet we know that those who stay involved and active live longer and happier lives. Treating all these older people with drugs or therapy is not the right solution. We need as a society to re-evaluate what age offers and to encourage healthy ageing across the life cycle. We have started a campaign in our area called “Proud to be Grey”, challenging ageist beliefs and encouraging people to carry on doing whatever they enjoy throughout their lives. Initially this has been a poster campaign across all council, mental health and GP settings, featuring local residents with three statements about things they enjoy about growing old. These have ranged from roles such as being a grandparent to activities they enjoy.
Dr CI Allen
Consultant clinical psychologist, Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

• There would rightly be an outcry if any other group, such as women or an ethnic minority, was described as a burden. Age UK says that a third of pensioners do voluntary work. A further third of them do unpaid child-minding of their grandchildren so that their parents can work. Many of the over-60s look after their own elderly parents who are in their 80s. Older people are net contributors to society. Research carried out for the charity WRVS reveals people of 65 and over are also net contributors to the economy. Taking into account older people’s tax payments, caring responsibilities and volunteering, people aged 65 and over contribute £40bn more to the economy than they receive in state pensions, welfare and health services. By 2030 older people’s net contribution is projected to increase to some £75bn.
Ann Wills
Ruislip, Middlesex

• Loneliness among our elderly population is rife (Number of severely lonely men over 50 set to rise to 1m in 15 years, 13 October). The report by Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre-UK highlights the shocking extent of the problem – and how it’s set to get worse. Many people are unaware of the impact of loneliness on physical and mental health, and more needs to be done to widen awareness and address the problem. We’re supporting some truly inspirational charities that are addressing this issue locally, such as the Dorcas Befriending Project in London and Men In Sheds in Milton Keynes, and matching the first £10 of all donations made through in our “Grow Your Tenner” fundraising campaign, just launched by the new minister for civil society, Rob Wilson.
Stephen Mallinson
Chief executive,

David Cameron on a bike, 2005. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
David Cameron on a bike, 2005. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

If the taxi driver quoted in John Crace’s sketch (I’m David Farage, 17 October) is correct that Rochester is “the arsehole of Kent”, what does this make the politicians passing through?
Edward Rees QC
Doughty Street Chambers, London

• Re “The juvenile thrills of a puff in the park” (G2, 16 October): I presume the tigers in Trafalgar Square referred to are the ones under Napoleon’s Column.
Sally Howel

• Does the bronze of David Cameron on a bike (Secretive club hosts Tory fundraiser in aid of marginal seats, 17 October) come with a bronze of a limo carrying his papers?
Martin Berman

Tomorrow afternoon a memorial service will be held for David Haines, one of the three Britons kidnapped by Isis in Syria. David and Alan Henning travelled to Syria to help their fellow man by delivering vital humanitarian support to those who needed it most. Their desire to help was not driven by their religion, race or politics, but by their humanity. David and Alan were never more alive than when helping to alleviate the suffering of others. They gave their lives to this cause and we are incredibly proud of them.

We are writing this letter because we will not allow the actions of a few people to undermine the unity of people of all faiths in our society. How we react to this threat is also about all of us. Together we have the power to defeat the most hateful acts. Acts of unity from us all will in turn make us stronger and those who wish to divide us weaker. David and Alan’s killers want to hurt all of us and stop us from believing in the very things which took them into conflict zones – charity and human kindness. We condemn those who seek to drive us apart and spread hatred by attempting to place blame on Muslims or on the Islamic faith for the actions of these terrorists.

We have been overwhelmed by the messages of support we have received from the British public and others around the world. We call on all communities of all faiths in the coming weeks and months to find a single act of unity – one simple gesture, one act, one moment – that draws people together, as we saw in Manchester last week and as we are coming together in Perth today. We urge churches, mosques and synagogues to open their doors and welcome people of all faiths and none. All these simple acts of unity will, in their thousands, come together to unite us and celebrate the lives of David and Alan. This is what David and Alan truly stood for.
Michael Haines and Barbara Henning

Jocelyn Stevens
Jocelyn Stevens in 1991, the year before he moved to English Heritage. Photograph: Jane Bown

Far from being “buried by archaeologists”, Sir Jocelyn Stevens embraced us and shared our passion for heritage. Committed to quality, and irascible when it suited him, Jocelyn brought a welcome breadth of vision and experience to English Heritage. Most of us responded enthusiastically – though some were scorched by his insistence that only the best would do. He recognised the power of archaeology to change perceptions of the past and influence the ways in which we would live together in the future. The new Stonehenge visitor centre and the restoration of the monument to its landscape would not have occurred without his persistent advocacy. He was a firm friend to archaeology and his support was crucial as it evolved from a preserve of the few into the wider world.


I am outraged that Nicola Sturgeon, who is aged 44, has the effrontery to say that she expects to see Scotland leave the UK in her lifetime.

Scotland has spoken: it wishes to stay in the United Kingdom and, as Alex Salmond has commented, this is a once-in-a-generation debate.

She should not act as a spoilt child because she did not get her own way. And next time, if there is one, can we please take into consideration important facts which were overlooked in the recent referendum. Scotland merged with England and Wales in 1603. No one dissented, so it became in law one single country, and remains so. This fact is evidenced by our having one British Parliament at Westminster.

Thus if Scotland now wishes to break away, the decision should be taken by all the people of the UK or, at any rate, by all the people of Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland).

If it were otherwise, the people of Kent could declare their intention of seeking independence and demand a referendum to be decided solely by the inhabitants of Kent.

This is not as far-fetched as it sounds; Kent has a lot in common with Scotland on this issue. Whereas the greater part of England was settled by the Angles and Saxons in the 5th century onwards, Kent was settled by the Jutes who came from a different part of northern Europe. Kent was an independent Jutish kingdom from the 5th to nearly the 9th century, during which time there were some 20 kings of Kent.

Furthermore, Kent had a separate law of inheritance called gavelkind which was not abolished until 1925.

But a current claim for Kentish independence would be put to Parliament or, less likely, put to a general referendum involving the whole country.

Why the latter? Because the people of Kent have historically acquiesced in living in the one political entity which we now call the United Kingdom. Ditto Scotland.

David Ashton
Shipbourne, Kent


I can foresee a battle royal developing between the SNP and Westminster, whereby the spurious expectations of the SNP to get everything they ask for will not be granted by Westminster, and the howls of discontent from the SNP will fire up the independence issue yet again. There are many in Scotland who think that we need to get on with life, and there are many matters of government that have been ignored while we were strangled in a very divisive referendum over the past two years.

The independence issue is done and dusted, so let’s get on with building a better Scotland for all.

Dennis Forbes Grattan
Bucksburn, Aberdeen


Alan Johnson is labour’s only hope

I was surprised that there was little response to the suggestion that Alan Johnson should step forward to take the reins of the Labour Party.

I am not a member or a supporter of Labour or any of the current crop of UK political parties. Alan Johnson is, however, my local MP in Hull West and Hessle and represents his constituency very well. Are Labour Party members so deluded as to not be able to see that Ed Miliband is leading them to defeat in May 2015?

Ed may be a perfectly nice guy with a fine set of policies – but, crucially, he is an inept leader and, even more crucially, is not viewed by the British electorate as a future leader of this country. With him at the helm the Labour Party will suffer another “Kinnock moment”.

So step forward, Alan Johnson… even if you just call yourself a caretaker leader. This would be a bad election for Labour to lose; with the economy on the up and a possible fight against Boris in 2020, Labour could find itself on the back foot and out of power for years.

Martin Newman


Freud has at least started a debate

Lord Freud made a foolish blunder when he suggested that the disabled should be paid below the minimum wage, but those who rush to judgement should recall that another Government multi-millionaire minister, Jeremy Hunt, did some similar thinking out loud a year ago, when he suggested that the British had a tendency to neglect their elderly relatives, unlike the Chinese.

He seemed particularly taken with Beijing’s law for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Aged which placed a legal obligation on children to make regular parental visits.

Mr Hunt’s ostensible concern for the elderly was, in truth, a ploy to persuade us all to take on duties which governments like his would prefer to avoid, since a minimal-intervention state has better things to do with its money than spend it on old people. According to the doctrine favoured by the present administration, families should look after their own.

The Health Minister’s not-so-coded message was that individuals in the UK should take the pressure off public spending by stumping up for the care of their ailing parents.

Lord Freud has at least opened the issue up. We are told that employment is on the rise, which sounds like good news. On the other hand, we are also told that more than a third of the newly self-employed don’t earn enough to pay tax.

While it would clearly be an outrage to expect anyone to work for as little as £2 per hour, even if they did happen to be less productive than their workmates, it would also not be beyond the wit even of this Government to devise a scheme similar to one which operated around 40 years ago when small businesses received a premium from the state if they employed a person registered as disabled.

Instead of heaping abuse on Lord Freud, perhaps his colleagues could ask him to look into it.

David J Black


As your editorial (17 October) says, Freud must go. He has not only been thoroughly offensive, but he has spearheaded what disabled people have come to see as our persecution.

But your paper and most commentators, including Nick Clegg (“Freud raised important issue, says Clegg”, also 17 October), have all been sucked into believing that only work gives a person any value whatsoever. This ethos is unlikely to be shared by many other cultures, but in saying: “We are human beings, not economic units”, I feel completely out of step.

Of course, it isn’t new; mothers and those caring for relatives at home have long struggled to make society aware of their massive value. But this new drum beat, of forcing absolutely everyone into some sort of paid job, however poor the pay or demeaning the work, is a frightening manifestation of capitalism at its worst.

Merry Cross
Earley, Reading


Chimpanzees’ rights would be good for us

Congratulations on your editorial asking for fundamental rights to be granted to chimpanzees (9 October). As a superior species, human beings have treated the animals who share this planet with us with appalling cruelty and indifference.

By granting animals some fundamental rights and by focusing on compassion in all our dealings with animals, we will take a huge leap forward in our civilisation. Over thousands of years we as a species have corrected many wrongs that we committed on ourselves. Our cruelty towards animals in hunting, live exports, factory farming and countless other ways is a blot on our species which we need to address urgently.

Nitin Mehta


How extravagance redistributes wealth

Commenting on the extravagant wedding of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (13 October) says spending £8m “is not good – not for them, not for anyone”.

Surely the opposite is true. It does no one any good for wealthy people to stash their cash and live like paupers. Only by spending lavishly do they redistribute their wealth to the rest of us. George and Amal’s wedding, spread over four days in Venice, must have provided employment for countless people, and no doubt contributed to keeping the city afloat.

Julie Hynds


Richard III was hardly the worst of kings

Given Dr Sean Lang’s hackneyed condemnation of Richard III (letter, 16 October), I am thankful that I am not one of his students.

With nothing to gain and everything to lose under the new Tudor regime, so far from regarding their late king as a tyrant or murderer, the city of York publicly mourned “our good King Richard piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city”.

And when it came to wholesale political murder, Henrys VII and VIII made Richard III look like a fumbling amateur.

Richard Humble


Double Take

In The Independent (17 October) on the same page: the price of chocolate pudding in Israel – two full columns; 13-year-old boy shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank – half a column. Say no more…

Bill Dale

Sir, Large cruise ships should be commandeered immediately and sent to West Africa as floating hospital ships. I make this suggestion drawing on my experience on the Falklands task force commander’s staff, mobilising merchantmen as troop transports and hospital ships.

Cruise ships are fast through the water, have sophisticated air conditioning systems, catering facilities and huge electrical generating capacity: there would never be a shortage of power for any medical need. Cruise ships also have helipads and sophisticated communications systems.

This environment could be used to give medical personnel the greatest possible protection (clean rooms, suiting rooms and so on). Each of the big ships could offer up to 3,000 hospital beds.

There are no other capital assets that can put so many beds, and such a sophisticated Western technological infrastructure, in place in west Africa in such a short time.

These ships are very expensive (and no-one is going to want to use them afterwards) but they are far cheaper than military assets with the same facilities.

At about €500 million to build, these ships may be expensive, but it monetises the problem. An investment of €5 billion could put ten ships and 20,000 good medical beds into west Africa within a month. This is just about sufficient to make a difference. I can see no other means.
Nicholas R Messinger
Master mariner, Sturminster Newton, Dorset

Sir, I warned in my book in 2008 of the danger of diseases bred in insanitary conditions in the developing world being spread internationally; I mentioned ebola, together with Sars and HIV/Aids (Jefferson’s Disease, pp. 124-5).

There are other formidable viruses out there, such as Marburg virus and “monkey pox”.

The ebola screening about to be instituted will not detect the really dangerous arrivals in this country: those incubating the disease. Such people will mix with the population, spreading the virus for almost two weeks before being laid low. The only solution to that is to quarantine all visitors from West Africa for two weeks. Unless such rigour is applied, ebola will quite probably have devastating consequences here.

May I now suggest two measures to improve the safety of those nursing the sufferers? One is the judicious use of carbolic aerosol-type sprays as first used by Lord Lister. At one time, I had to perform orthopaedic operations in a room subjected to heavy traffic. By spraying this room there were no post-operative infections.

The second is the use of copper-impregnated materials, which have proved to be bactericidal. Gowns thus treated could be reused. This could help to overcome one of the serious dangers of nursing these patients: that of becoming infected when removing gowns.
Wylie Gibbs, FRCS
Newport, Isle of Wight

Sir, Jenni Russell (“Action this day if we’re going to beat ebola,” Oct 16) omits an important factor with respect to certain west African governments. The apparent inertia is less likely to be caused by crowd psychology than by a reasonable expectation that the governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone should have been making reasonable attempts to isolate affected patients and their contacts, prohibit cross-border travel and communicate effectively the seriousness of the outbreak.
Dr Tony Males

Sir, Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year recounts how market traders, fearful of infection from coins, required customers to place payment in, and take change from, bowls of vinegar.

Should not government guidance suggest that retailers display notices stating “We encourage the use of contactless payment in the hope that this lessens the risk of infection by reducing the handling of cash and the use of keypads”?
John Harvey
Caterham, Surrey

Sir, This country has been kept free of rabies by the use of strict quarantine laws. The only way to control ebola is to strictly limit all movement out of affected countries and to impose 21 days’ quarantine on those few who are allowed to leave, preferably before departure. If an infected individual boards a ship for a slow journey home, the result will be a disaster. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship going to Sierra Leone would do well to isolate any person who goes ashore.

Even trained staff with all the protective gear find it difficult to protect themselves from infection. Therefore, those who have been involved in this dangerous task should also be quarantined for three weeks after their exposure. This would have prevented the present panic in America. We have forgotten how important enforced isolation is in the control of infectious disease. Harsh decisions can limit the spread of this tragedy.
Marian Latchman
Braishfield, Hants

Sir, Where is the international ebola aid movement — the international charity appeals and pop concerts? ebola seems to have a low profile in Europe. This needs all our help now, or it will get exponentially worse. I for one will be making another donation to help combat this awful disease — not much, but it all helps. Have you done your bit?
Pat O’Hara
Ormskirk, Lancs

Sir, I was appalled to read that those service personnel deploying to West Africa to help in the WHO efforts to contain the ebola virus, would not “routinely” be flown home by the government, should they be unfortunate enough to become infected. Does this stand up against the armed forces covenant? And what message does this send to those going to west Africa to assist in this great effort?
Nick Bailey
Upton Lovell, Wiltshire

Sir, A seemingly unrecognised route for spread of ebola would be rats and other vermin, if bodies are buried rather than cremated. It came from bats, it thrives in humans, it is likely to find rats a good host, from these ebola will spread to domestic and farm animals and find another route back to humans via pets and meat-eating.
Dr Lesley Kay London, NW1

Sir, Tony Westhead (letter, Oct 15) is describing a general consultant. A management consultant would borrow your watch to tell you the time . . . and keep your watch.
Kerry Thomas
Tilehurst, Berks

Sir, I have been reading your correspondence on zeugmas (letters, this week) with interest and a cup of coffee. However, whether I now better understand the difference between a zeugma and a syllepsis is a matter of conjecture and little practical importance.
Mark Haszlakiewicz
Goodworth Clatford, Hants

Sir, A Times correspondent once wrote that he had received a letter saying: “We had turkey for lunch and Granny for tea”.
Peter Govier
Highcliffe, Dorset

Sir, John Lennon once said: “I play the guitar, and sometimes the fool.”
Dr Dominic Walker
Bourne, Lincs

Sir, The perfect example of zeugma is in Have Some Madeira, M’dear, by Flanders and Swann: “She lowered her standards by raising her glass/Her courage, her eyes and his hopes.” And no good came of it.
Aline Templeton

Sir, Your readers may spare themselves time and mental anguish by consulting Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled, where the entry for zeugma reads: “Essentially the same as syllepsis. The differences between them are trivial and undecided.”
Ean Taylor
Sprotbrough, Doncaster

Sir, All this discussion of zeugma and syllepsis is doing a great service to our knowledge of language, but my head in.
Geoff Buckley
Chislehurst, Kent

Sir, Carol Midgley fears being found asleep and drooling on her 29th circuit of the Circle Line three hours after a liquid lunch (“Boris and the lost art of lunchtime drinking”, Oct 15). It takes 49 minutes to complete one circuit of the Circle Line, so allowing for scheduled night-time closures and changing at Edgware Road, it would take about 29 hours to complete 29 circuits. Perfect timing for a restorative pre-dinner martini while following the 5:2 diet plan.
Angus Saer
Westcot, Oxon

Sir, Helen Rumbelow’s dilemma over the correct label for female footballers is a long-lasting issue. In the late 1950s I was an undergraduate at Bedford College for Women, University of London. That started life in the mid-19th century as the Ladies College but was soon renamed. However, 100 years later it was still widely believed that our rival all-female colleges were not so enlightened and the Royal Holloway College catered for girls and Westfield for ladies.
Olive Main
Stilton, Peterborough

Freedom of expression compromised after memoir ban

The court ruled that the book should not be published on the grounds that it may cause psychological harm to the author’s child.

The Royal Courts of Justice, London.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the memoir about sexual abuse could not be published Photo: ALAMY

SIR – The Court of Appeal’s injunction last week preventing publication of a memoir poses a significant threat to freedom of expression. The court ruled that the book should not be published on the grounds that it might cause psychological harm to the author’s child, who has Asperger’s and ADHD.

The book is not targeted at children and will not be published in the country in which the child lives. It deals with the author’s experiences of sexual abuse and explores the redemptive power of artistic expression. It has been praised, even in court, for having striking prose and being an insightful work.

The author’s earlier public discussions of sexual abuse have led to the arrest of one of his abusers. This memoir’s publication is therefore clearly in the public interest and may encourage those who have suffered abuse to speak out.

As members of English PEN, we are gravely concerned about the impact of this judgment on the freedom to read and write in Britain. The public is being denied the opportunity of reading an enlightening memoir, while publishers, authors and journalists may face censorship on similar grounds in the future.

Jeffrey Archer
William Boyd
John Carey
Jim Crace
Jonathan Dimbleby
Cory Doctorow
Michael Frayn
Stephen Fry
Daisy Goodwin
David Hare

Tom Holland
Hari Kunzru
Marina Lewycka
Blake Morrison
Katharine Norbury
Will Self
Sir Tom Stoppard
Colin Thubron
Colm Tóibín
Maureen Freely

President, English PEN

Hospital smokers

SIR – It would be more prudent to ban smoking outside hospitals before trying to ban in it public parks (report, October 15).

On arriving at both Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General hospitals one has to walk a gauntlet of smokers, many in wheelchairs with drips attached.

When I asked about this, I was told it was public land, so the hospital authorities were unable to do anything about. What hope for policing a ban in public parks?

Annabel Hayter
Maisemore, Gloucester

Don’t consign Radio 3 to the digital realm

DAB’s quality doesn’t begin to compare with that achieved by FM broadcasts

Digital era: Ed Vaizey has suggested that BBC Radio 3 should be moved to a digital channel

Digital era: Ed Vaizey has suggested that BBC Radio 3 should be moved to a digital channel Photo: Daniel Jones

SIR – Ed Vaizey, the minister for culture and communications, prefers Classic FM to Radio 3. He is entitled to his views but, unlike the rest of us, he is in a position to do something about them and cavalierly wants to banish Radio 3 to digital radio.

Aside from the fact that DAB has singularly failed to achieve sufficient coverage and penetration into our homes and cars, its quality doesn’t begin to compare with that achieved by FM broadcasts, which are exploited so effectively by Radio 3 and Classic FM.

In 2007 DAB+, which does rival FM in terms of quality, was introduced. But unless you live in places like Australia or Italy, you can’t get it, even if you have a DAB+ compatible receiver. As far as I am aware, there are no plans to begin broadcasting in this format in Britain, probably because the signal format is not compatible with existing DAB radios.

Rather than adopting a negative stance on Radio 3, perhaps Mr Vaizey should be exercising his powers in a positive fashion by encouraging wider coverage of DAB broadcasts, cheap and simple conversion kits for existing car radios, and looking again at the case for DAB+ broadcasts in Britain.

Finally, is this just the thin end of the wedge? What are the minister’s views on Corrie versus EastEnders, and what will he do about the one he doesn’t like?

Philip Glascoe
Sturry, Kent

SIR – In 1992 I marched outside Broadcasting House with the Campaign to Save Radio 4 Long Wave, which the then director general was proposing to dedicate to a rolling news service.

That campaign was successful. I do hope I will not have to repeat the exercise for Radio 3.

Ann Cranford-Smith
Valongis, Guernsey

SIR – If Ed Vaizey thinks Radio 3 should no longer be broadcast on FM, perhaps he will pay for a digital radio to be fitted in my car.

Douglas Thom
Woolsery, Devon


Minimum wage is a barrier to meaningful employment for the disabled

Lord Freud’s words may have been ill-chosen, but there was some logic behind them

Grieving widows and civil partners will no longer be entitled to ongoing bereavement benefits worth thousands of pounds a year under government plans.

Lord Freud, the Conservative welfare reform minister Photo: Getty

SIR – My daughter’s ambition is to get a job in an office. She has Down’s syndrome. She thinks that, if she works hard, someone, somewhere will give her a job.

At £6.50 per hour, it’s never going to happen. But at £2 per hour? Maybe. For a tenner a week, an employer could change her life.

The minimum wage protects against unscrupulous employers. But for my child, it is a barrier to meaningful employment.

Indeed, because of the minimum wage, she is destined for a life of short-lived, voluntary non-jobs, together with a succession of “life skills” courses run by a local charity. Not much of a future, is it? Think of what it would mean to her to be able to say: “I have a job.”

Lord Freud’s words were ill-chosen, but I can tell you that I, and many parents like me, would welcome any change that would give our sons and daughters a real opportunity in the world of work.

Candice Baxter
Grimsby, Lincolnshire

SIR – I used to employ two people with learning disabilities who had been assigned to us by social services. When the minimum wage was to apply to them, we had to take them off the payroll; there was no possibility of us paying that amount for the few tasks the two people could achieve.

Social services were anxious that the assignment should continue, however, so we paid the amount that would not affect the benefits the persons received, and this arrangement carried on successfully for a number of years.

Janet James
Cheam, Surrey

SIR – The Prime Minister backs Lord Freud. He also backed Maria Miller. When will we hear about Lord Freud’s resignation?

James Bishop
Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides

SIR – My school provides specialist further education, training and development for young people with complex physical disabilities, brain injuries and associated sensory, learning, medical, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Many people we work with say they feel like second-class citizens. Lord Freud’s comments will only reinforce their perceptions.

I call on the Government to reduce the barriers people with disabilities face in getting jobs, and support people in proving what they can do, rather than focusing on what they can’t.

Kathryn Rudd
Principal, National Star College
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – The Coalition deliberately dis-banded the Remploy group of sponsored factories and workshops, which for years provided a well-equipped and successful light engineering and manufacturing resource for British industry, manned by very determined disabled employees and very worthy managers.

Graham Clifton
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

A terror suspect was recorded by police as he allegedly prepared to buy a gun using the code word “sausage” Photo: Eleanor Bentall

SIR – You report that a terror suspect is alleged to have used the code word “sausage” to buy a gun.

It is not the first time such a code word has been used. When in 1961 Goa, Portugal’s small enclave in India, faced the military might of India and was running short of artillery shells or anti-tank grenades (the stories vary), the commander of the Portuguese garrison sent an urgent request for replacements to Lisbon using the prearranged code word of chouriços, or sausages.

The Ministry of Defence in Lisbon, which had long forgotten the code word, duly despatched a large consignment of spicy sausages to Goa by plane.


Plum breakfast

SIR – Regarding John H Stephen’s sloe deficit (Letters, October 15), can I suggest plum brandy as a winter warmer?

The residual plums make an excellent topping for breakfast too – though not on days when one has to drive or make important decisions.

Melanie Williams
Craswall, Herefordshire

Sir, – So let me get this straight – corporations are found to be using various schemes and stratagems to ensure they pay a fraction of the current low corporation tax rate of 12.5 per cent, and our Government’s “solution” is to propose a new corporation tax rate of 6.25 per cent?

Using the same logic, those people refusing to pay the new water tax should be “punished” by having their bills halved. But, of course, in this State taxes are only for the little people. – Yours, etc,



Co Limerick.

Sir, – In an otherwise regressive budget, it is good to see the attention given by the Government to the Special Assignee Relief Programme (Sarp).

Under the Sarp, under certain conditions, international executives can make a claim to have 30 per cent of their income above €75,000 disregarded for income tax purposes. In budget 2015, the upper income ceiling of €500,000 has been removed and the requirement to have worked for the company for 12 months before being seconded into Ireland has been lowered to six months.

A welcome relief for the working poor, which the rest of us will certainly not begrudge having to pay for! – Yours, etc,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – It took only two days for the prediction of ongoing growth in the Irish economy to hit its first stumbling block. Surely those who are charged with responsibility for the fiscal health of the nation should have made it their business to factor in the ominous signs of a weakening German economy, when it was so glaringly obvious to most economic commentators.

Based on past experience, it was surely a reckless act by Government to frame a giveaway budget without regard to a likely downturn in Europe, as well as wider global uncertainty, which was already evident. It seems Murphy’s law will always have a role to play when it comes to predicting an Irish recovery. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – I am appalled at the abolition of the 80 per cent windfall tax on the price of rezoned development land from January 1st.

This tax was introduced by the previous government in the aftermath of the crash to try to ensure that a property bubble would never again wreck the economy. As well as removing the temptation to corruption in the planning system, it is also a simple way of implementing the principle idea of the 1973 Kenny report – that the community, rather than individual landowners, should receive any profits resulting simply from a local authority’s redesignation of agricultural land for development.

The Construction Industry Federation, whose members will benefit hugely from Labour’s €2.2 billion social housing programme, lobbied very strongly to have the windfall tax removed. It was confident before the budget to speculate on the removal of this “boomtime tax . . . that has generated zero funding for [the] exchequer since it was introduced in 2009”. This statement is self- contradictory, as the bubble had well and truly burst by 2009 and the main purpose of the tax is to prevent it recurring, not to raise revenue.

Sir, – I note the continuing travails in Northern Ireland over marches, flags, banners, etc. These rather tiresome obsessions come at a high social and economic cost. Might I suggest that the Parades Commission impose a small charge on each marcher and each banner, at about the cost of a cinema ticket? The income from this would be divided between the police and security budget and charity and community groups nominated by the residents of the area where the march is to take place. The charge could be adjusted by the commission yearly to determine a level where a reasonable contribution to the cost of policing is made and where the residents of the areas where the marches take place would regard the march with indifference or a moderate level of satisfaction. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – I am an English guest, gracefully retired in your wonderful country, living with my Irish wife in Mountmellick, a town with a rich history. We could not have chosen a more relaxed place to live and enjoy life to the full.

However, I am astounded that in this, the second decade of the 21st century, I cannot receive broadband in my house via my telephone line with Vodafone, Sky or Eircom, because, as I was informed this morning, “you are too far away from the [Eircom] exchange.”

I rejoice when I hear about the investment in Ireland by foreign companies involved in IT, but my heart sinks when I hear on the radio of directors of businesses in the midlands having to walk across the road from their factories to access broadband. – Yours, etc,



Co Laois.

Sir, – Cigarettes are up to a tenner a pack; that’s life. A fiver and more for a pint; no bother. A soggy disk of dough, with the products of food scientists’ best efforts at transforming transfats and animal protein slathered on top, delivered to your door (a 16-inch deep pan pizza with all the trimmings to you and me), €25; great value! Even better if it is washed down with a slab of lager. Approximately €600 for a satellite sports and movie subscription; sure everyone needs one when eating your pizza!

Approximately €200 for a year’s supply of clean water; absolute war.

Am I missing something? – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.

Sir, – By not availing of proffered free allowances in return for PPS details I am, effectively, having to pay Irish Water for my privacy. I feel abandoned by the Data Protection Commissioner. This will be my election issue when the politicians come knocking. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

A chara, – The big protest march last Saturday against the water charges called to mind Stephen Collins’s opinion piece the previous Saturday (“Inside Politics”, October 4th) lauding the political skills of former minister for the environment Phil Hogan.

“Wiping the floor with his critics” at the European Parliament committee hearing into his appointment as EU agriculture commissioner, Mr Hogan’s “performance [was] akin to that of the Kilkenny hurling team in the All-Ireland final”. Mr Collins found it “hard to think of anybody else who would have managed to introduce the property tax, the water charges and the septic tank charges with relatively little fuss”.

As the stream of public protests against the water charges looks like turning into a flood that could submerge his Labour Party successor as Minister for the Environment, one can add knowing when to quit the pitch to Big Phil’s manifest political skills.

As he settles into his new job in the Berlaymont, the Kilkenny man might also take the time to make a quick call on his smartphone to former colleague Joan Burton to explain the skills of ground hurling and in particular how to keep your footing on a wet pitch. – Is mise,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Will Dublin City Council ever consider the impossible and discontinue the use of bus lanes?

Only this week, this is what the city authorities here in Liverpool have done. After a 12-month review, during which time all of the 26 bus lanes into the city were suspended, it turned out that the routes offered little in reducing the flow of traffic, and in some cases they made matters worse. They have now opted to scrap all but four of the bus lane routes. There are, of course, protests from the usual suspects – cyclists, passengers and the bus companies – but the council is standing firm.

What is particularly refreshing about this development is that the council will forego some £700,000 the lanes generated each year from errant motorists.

“Making the motorist a cash cow is immoral”, said the lord mayor, Joe Anderson. Now that’s a first. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Nobody, I suspect, who questions the measures to restrict access to mortgage funding as proposed by the Central Bank is advocating a return to the mayhem of the “boom” years.

But to suggest that the only alternative to the Central Bank’s proposals is such a return is nonsense – there hasn’t been, and there isn’t, right now, an enormous expansion in credit; there isn’t a property bubble in Ireland.

Right now, the world economy looks very flaky. Ireland’s economy has benefited from the quantitative easing implemented by the US and UK. Had those countries gone the way of the euro zone, the Irish depression would have been much deeper.

With Germany, France. Spain and Italy, just to mention the major euro economies, either flat or in recession, the question is whether there will be a quantitative easing in the euro zone area, and what effect this would have on the Irish property market.

The problem with the Central Bank’s proposal is the 20 per cent mortgage deposit requirement.

Will this douse the housing market at a time when the provision of alternative social housing is limited?

If we are going to have some kind of command economy, will this be extended to other sectors? Why only housing? Should we then have a prices and incomes policy?

Finally, those who are whispering something about putting an end to the cycle of boom and bust are in for a very rude awakening some time in the future – the cycle of boom and bust will recur endlessly. – Yours, etc,


Mount Brown,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – As a past pupil of Blackrock College, I support the Government’s proposed legislation ensuring all schools have an open-door admissions policy to all children. The world has changed and it is “hereditary privilege” that is totally “unjust” in deciding access to education in any of our schools. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – Your motoring correspondent states that car ownership among the younger demographic is plummeting and suggests that traffic congestion may be the cause (“Car ownership in Europe plummets”, October 15th). I suspect the main reason for the slump in car sales is the smaller wage packets the younger workforce has to endure; plus many workers are forced to work for very low pay under the internship system. Across the EU, youth unemployment is running at 24 per cent. In Greece and Spain, it is over 50 per cent! If we are to break this cycle of stagnation, employers need to follow Henry Ford’s lead in the 1920s when he paid his workers well enough so they could afford to buy the new cars he produced. We have given the money to the banks and it hasn’t worked. It is time to give it to young workers. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 2.

Sir, – On numerous occasions I have politely enquired why we, the customers, have to put up with the witless pap emanating from the sound systems in pubs, restaurants and supermarkets, only to be told, “We have no choice – a CD is sent out from head office on a regular basis, and we have to play it.” Regular inspections are made to ensure compliance.

All of which suggests that money is involved, which means we customers pay for this rubbish. – Yours, etc,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Your editorial “Recognising Palestine” noted that the new Swedish government is set to recognise Palestine. Maybe Sweden could recognise Ireland too, while they are at it. The last Swedish government slimmed down its representation here, now amounting to an honorary consul, in contrast to all other Scandinavian countries, which have embassies here. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The synod in Rome has made hesitant steps into the 21st century (“Synod backtracks on gay ‘welcome’ in revised translation”, October 16th).

Instead of quibbling over the translation of “accogliere” would it not be more productive for the Holy See to translate the ideas into action? – Yours, etc,



A Leavy (Irish Independent Letters, October 17) repeats the myth that we were rescued by the ECB and seems not to understand the difference between sovereign debt and private banking debt.

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When the banking system imploded a deliberate choice was made by EU officials – no doubt some Irish people among them, since Irish people hold some of the most senior roles in EU officialdom – that the terms of providing lending to an EU member would include that member state taking on all of its banking sector debt.

No matter what choice was made, Ireland was always going to have a recession but what made it a depression was the ECB. Ireland could easily have afforded to borrow the money required to make up for the loss of tax revenue and increased social welfare costs that the recession would have required. And given the resources of the State at the time, the borrowing requirement may have been minimal. Like other countries, such as Iceland, the Irish recession could have been over in two or three years.

When the president of Iceland was presented with the legislation mandating the people to take on the burden of its entire banking debt, he refused to sign it. And do you know what? The sky didn’t fall in. There was a referendum on the legislation and the people rejected it – and they rejected it a second time.

The people of Iceland borrowed the money needed to get through their recession and they borrowed a very modest amount to reset their banking system on a more sustainable level.

It wasn’t pain-free, but the banks managed to deal with their debts themselves. Not only did Iceland avoid a depression, it also avoided the social devastation Ireland has experienced and, in fact, social welfare benefits increased in real terms at the expense of the well-off. They rewrote their constitution, they held their banking inquiry and reformed their legal and regulatory systems from top to bottom. They even managed to send a few people to jail but, more importantly, the financial crisis is now part of history in Iceland.

The Irish State was not bankrupt at the start of the financial crisis, it became bankrupt because of deliberate choices made by the ECB and the Irish Government.

The ECB chose to add private sector banking debt as a condition of providing funding; the Irish Government chose to bow to such a threat. At every stage of the crisis there were choices and the tragedy for the Irish people is that their interests were so poorly served.

Desmond FitzGerald, Canary Wharf, London


In a faraway land called IMF

I would love to know where this country called ‘The IMF’ is and what their tax rate is. Indeed, we could also examine its fish quotas, its population, its property tax, its social housing strategy, its natural resources, its democratic institutions and, of course, its history.

Since so wealthy a state had to come to poor old Ireland’s woes, I feel that whatever the IMF is doing as a nation, it should be adopted by the good people of Ireland as the blueprint for our future.

Should we not be grateful that this wonderful country exists and that its taxpayers are so generous to lend us money at only 6pc interest, when the ratings agencies said that we wouldn’t be able to pay back our loans.

Funny how wrong the agencies were – or were they ?

I feel bad now for criticising our elite minds that found such a generous nation of souls and I’m now to brush my teeth and wash my mouth out with soap under the trickle from my tap. I doubt the inhabitants of IMF have leaking pipes.

Dermot Ryan, Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway


Rights of the unborn

Colm O’Gorman’s article on abortion looks a little lop-sided. Nowhere is the innocent, unborn child acknowledged. Another anomaly: Amnesty International has always admirably opposed the death penalty.

Terminating a pregnancy puts to death a very young victim, voiceless, hence vulnerable.

Without the basic right to life all other rights are rendered redundant.

This seems self-evident.

Human rights come not from the generosity of government but from the hand of God, said President JFK.

T C Barnwell, Dublin 9


Opposition to education reform

To resist changes to the Junior Cycle, ASTI and TUI members have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, up to and including strike action if necessary.

In addition to the clear opposition of teachers themselves to school-based assessment, a national opinion poll last May showed the majority of the public are opposed to teachers correcting their own students’ work for certification purposes.

Our main areas of opposition to Junior Cycle changes relate to the planned removal of national certification and external assessment, both of which provide status and credibility to the assessment process.

Such credibility is linked with the high level of public trust in our education system.

Indeed, a recent OECD survey placed Ireland first among countries measured for public confidence in its education system.

We are also opposed to the imposition of further pressure on the capacity of schools to provide a quality education service in the wake of several years of austerity cuts, none of which were reversed in this year’s Budget.

Furthermore, it is clear that proposed changes to subject provision will have detrimental effects on the quality of education for students.

Certain subjects, such as history and geography, will be downgraded to optional status.

Such detrimental changes will hinder the development of students.

Sustainable and real educational reform requires teacher support and public confidence.

We call on the Education Minister to engage with us on this basis.

Philip Irwin, President, ASTI, Thomas McDonagh Hse, Winetavern St, Dublin 8

Gerry Quinn, President, TUI, 3 Orwell Rd, Rathgar, Dublin 6


What’s next? Food charges?

Water is essential for life, and access to good quality water should be a human right. Food is essential for life, and access to good quality food should be a human right.

Shame on the Government for maintaining a system which requires us to pay for food. After all, we do pay our taxes.

Edmund Haughey, Muff, Co Donegal


Beginning of the end of history

How can An Post, an organisation that has adopted an Irish language title, allow its mail to be carried in ‘Royal Mail’ bags? (John Waters, Irish Independent, October 15). Why does management not make it obligatory for post bags to carry identifying Irish postal signage?

The proposal by this Government for the downgrading of history as a core subject at Junior Cert level is a step in the same direction.

With no obligation on schools to teach history to our students, the consequences will be that more and more people will know less about our past, which will greatly lessen historical research in our universities, clearing the way for ignorance, revisionism and myth.

Mary Reynolds, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Irish Independent


October 17, 2014

17 October 2014 Birthday

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day my birthday 58 today. I get a card from Sharland and Shanti and some wine chocs and biscuits.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down trout for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Sheila Faith – obituary

Sheila Faith was a hardline Tory MP and the only woman in the party’s new intake in 1979

Sheila Faith (left) with Margaret Thatcher and Jill Knight

Sheila Faith (left) with Margaret Thatcher and Jill Knight Photo: PA

5:51PM BST 16 Oct 2014


Sheila Faith, who has died aged 86, was a Northumbrian school dentist who served one term as Conservative MP for Belper, Derbyshire, and went on to sit in the European Parliament.

The critical point in her career came prior to the 1983 election, when she decided that the new South Derbyshire constituency, which largely replaced Belper, was unwinnable. She tried elsewhere without success — only for South Derbyshire to be held by Edwina Currie, like herself a hardliner on law and order.

Quieter than Mrs Currie, the feline-featured Sheila Faith achieved much as a woman in politics without the drama. She secured the nomination at Belper despite the selection committee being advised not to choose a woman because the constituency was too large. And in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher came to power, she was the only woman in a sizeable Tory new intake.

Irene Sheila Book was born on June 3 1928 into the Newcastle rag trade; for much of her life she was a director of the family fashion business. From Newcastle Central High School she went to Durham University, where she read Dentistry. She then worked as a school dental officer.

She was elected to Northumberland county council in 1970, then moved back to Newcastle, taking on Edward Short, Leader of the Commons, at Newcastle Central in the October 1974 election. The following year, she was elected to the city council.

In 1979 she won Belper from Labour with a majority of 882. At Westminster she voted for the return of the death penalty, and became a founder-member of the health and social services select committee.

When in 1982 Willie Whitelaw promoted a Criminal Justice Bill that ended imprisonment for soliciting, Sheila Faith was the only member of the committee considering the measure to vote against it. She said that in her experience as a magistrate, prison was the only option for prostitutes who had already been cautioned twice and fined twice. The public, she added, would never forgive the government if the change brought an upsurge in prostitution.

Her greatest political embarrassment came in October 1982, during the by-election for the safe Labour seat of Peckham that brought Harriet Harman to the Commons. She and Norman Lamont, then a junior minister, each wrote to Ms Harman asking if she would be their “pair” once (not if) she was elected. Ms Harman duly published the correspondence, pulling the rug from under the Conservative candidate John Redwood; Mrs Faith professed herself “appalled”.

With her seat due to disappear, she decided South Derbyshire was unwinnable but, along with half a dozen other dispossessed Tories, failed to find a replacement. She lost out to Piers Merchant for her home seat of Newcastle Central, was runner-up at High Peak but was not even shortlisted for Buckingham.

Sheila Faith set her sights on the European Parliament, and was chosen to fight Cumbria in place of Elaine Kellett-Bowman, who had found seats at both Westminster and Strasbourg too much to handle. In 1984 she held the seat with the relatively comfortable majority of 39,622.

Her euro-constituency included the political hot potato of Sellafield, and in 1986 she accused Irish MEPs of spreading “misleading rumours” about radiation from the nuclear plant. Her interest earned her a move from the Parliament’s transport committee to its energy, research and technology committee.

She stood down at the 1989 election, becoming president of the Cumbria and north Lancashire euro-constituency. Two years later she was appointed to the Parole Board, based in London where she became deputy chairman of Hampstead and Highgate Conservatives. She also served on the Conservative Medical Society’s executive from 1981 to 1984.

Sheila Book married Denis Faith in 1950; they had no children.

Sheila Faith, born June 3 1928, died September 28 2014


Lord Freud Welfare reform minister Lord Freud issued a ‘full and unreserved apology’ after suggesting that some disabled people are ‘not worth’ the minimum wage. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA

Disability campaigners and disabled people remain outraged at this attack against them (Minister forced to apologise for disabled insult, October 16). We say Lord Freud should resign after his disgusting comments that disabled people are not worth the minimum wage. Freud is the architect of the government’s noxious welfare reform programme that is pushing disabled people off benefits and causing untold distress and misery, in too many cases leading to suicides and avoidable deaths.
The policies Freud designed show utter contempt for disabled people. His latest comments made to a Tory councillor at a party conference fringe meeting confirm this. There are 11 million disabled voters plus their families in the UK. Do the Tories think that allowing this type of reprehensible comment to be made by one of their senior ministers will encourage any of us to vote for them? If they wish to retain any credibility and Freud refuses to resign they must sack him immediately.
Linda Burnip, Debbie Jolly, Ellen Clifford, Paula Peters Disabled People Against Cuts steering group, Jane Bence, Rick Burgess, Wayne Blackburn, Nick Dilworth New Approach

• Had Lord Freud not talked about “employing” certain people whose abilities prevented them performing effectively but instead talked about encouraging employers to find ways of allowing these people to perform regular tasks as therapy, there would have been no problem. Some employers would like to cooperate – even though it is not economically viable – as part of their social responsibility, because “going to work” can aid self-esteem. It would probably cost them money in extra training and continuous mentoring but they would be willing to take part.

It would be a great shame if having to pay the minimum wage prevented such altruism or if any such token earnings resulted in a cut in other benefits for the worker concerned. The noble lord may have expressed himself insensitively but he surely had a valid point. He was talking about a minority of people with disabilities whose work performance could never justify the minimum wage, not the majority who could contribute fully.
Andrew Papworth
Billericay, Essex

• In response to Lord Freud’s comments, Cameron says he won’t take lectures from anyone around disability. The latter point is a shame as under his leadership budgets for services for our children have been cut to the point that respite is under threat. As a parent of two disabled children, I know that Sheffield city council has fended off cuts for children’s respite services for the last three years and now has little option but to consider service reductions. As Cameron is knowledgable about parenting disabled children I am a little surprised that he hasn’t grasped the impact of lack of speech and language therapists, respite care and the stigma that has increased because of the negative media amplification over benefit provision since 2010.

Come on Dave, you look to tap into our empathy near elections, so how about showing some for us in policy?
Garry Devine

• The furore surrounding Lord Freud takes attention away from the real culprit regarding the barriers facing disabled people in gaining employment: capitalism. Employers require a certain level of productivity from employees to secure a net profit. When I administered the government’s supported employment scheme 18 years ago, wage subsidies were available in many cases to contribute to a full wage for a disabled person whose productivity was palpably below that required by the job. Properly run, such a system ought to be reintroduced to ensure a level playing field for disabled people and, yes, of course a proper wage for them at minimum wage or above.
Michael Stockwell
Basingstoke, Hampshire

• As a school that specialises in the care and education of boys who require additional support for learning we were deeply disappointed by the comments from the welfare reform minister, Lord Freud. We undertake a number of work placement programmes with local companies and have established our own programmes to give young people experience of the world of work. The rewards of getting these young people, many of whom boast excellent skills, into work are well worth it, with high loyalty and retention rates as well as ensuring that the resultant cost to society of having these young people out of work is avoided. On top of this there are various recruitment incentives on offer from the Scottish government, such as the employer recruitment incentive, to help employers to provide training and skills development opportunities.

This and other packages of support should be made more widely known, as well as a greater effort made to support employers to design jobs for young people and provide appropriate training. We would urge Scotland’s employers to look beyond the label of those with additional support needs, disregard the comments by Lord Freud, and give our most vulnerable young people the support they deserve.
Stuart Jacob
Director, Falkland House school

• While I would defend unreservedly the rights of everybody to earn equal pay for equal work, the uncomfortable truth is that some disabled people would love to work but are unable to do equal work. My son is severely autistic and has a cleaning job with a charity for which he receives £5 per session. He gains socially and feels very proud, believing that he has a proper job. In reality, the quality of his cleaning would not pass muster with most employers and can only happen at all with support from a carer.

The difficulty with making exceptions to the minimum wage is that unscrupulous employers would exploit vulnerable people. However, in an open market, competing for a job with a minimum wage, nobody would employ my son. In the spirit of generosity I’ll assume that was what Lord Freud intended to go away and think about.
Maggie Lyons

• As a 20 year old with Usher syndrome (deaf-blind) who has recently started a teaching degree, I have ambitions, just like any other 20 year old, to develop a career and play a full part in the workplace. I am also an ambassador for the deafblind charity Sense and spearhead my own charity, the Molly Watt Trust, and know that many disabled people make a huge contribution to society and the workplace. Lord Freud’s suggestions that some disabled people are “not worth” even the minimum wage is offensive and only widens the credibility gap between his government and disabled people. The government should be focusing on how to help more disabled people into work and Lord Freud should take the time to meet people like myself to understand the challenges and obstacles we regularly have to overcome.
Molly Watt
Molly Watt Trust

• Lord Freud’s comments beg the question: “Are some members of the House of Lords worth their daily attendance allowance?” Incidentally, is it included in the coalition’s definition of welfare?
Peter Wilson
Windermere, Lancashire

A model for our democracy? The panel from Strictly Come Dancing. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC

Polly Toynbee (Never mind Russell Brand – use your vote, 15 October) argues for proportional representation as a spur to the 35% of registered voters who do not vote at general elections. I think the system change should be more profound. The Scottish referendum drew 85% to the polling booths. All MPs should be independent. We should scrap party politics and adopt referendum politics. The electronic mechanisms for regular referendums have been tested for years. I no longer want to vote for glib promises that are abandoned the day after an election; I want to vote on specific issues. Strictly Come Voting is the system for the modern electronic era. Eg: “Do you want the Land Registry to be sold to American hedge funds?”
Noel Hodson

Supporters of British recognition of a Palestinian state with a banner in Parliament Square. Photogr Supporters of British recognition of a Palestinian state with a banner in Parliament Square. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP

You write (Editorial, 15 October) of the “growing frustration … with both the failure to make peace and the actions of the Israeli government”. I agree and as a frequent visitor to the occupied territories, I would report that this frustration is reaching boiling point among Palestinians, who have almost given up on the outside world influencing change. The House of Commons vote was therefore welcomed with joy, as this message from a Palestinian paediatrician colleague living in Ramallah demonstrates: “You can’t imagine how this changed the mood of all our nation. People are dancing in the streets, sweet shops are distributing sweets and knafeh for free… It is more than what could be expected or dreamed – 96% for recognition of a Palestininan state is volcanic. Is it a dream or a real thing? It is a sort of reconciliation between British people and Palestinians… Thanks to the people of UK!” Those who say the vote had no effect should recognise the importance of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Dr Tony Waterston
Newcastle upon Tyne

• I am currently in West Bank. Having read your judicious call to Israel, I have to say that at ground level there is no space left for a Palestinian state to exist. Israel has evolved into a virtual bi-national state, economically a well-integrated whole, where near-equal numbers of people are governed by either civil or military law depending on their ethnicity, within its self-declared sovereign territory of Judea and Samaria.

The UK parliament’s vote was significant, however, not for the number of MPs who voted yes, but for the majority that abstained instead of voting against the motion. Therein is the message for Israeli elite to ponder.
Mohammad Abdul Qavi
Beit Sahour, Palestine

• The vote to recognise a Palestine state is a stupid mistake for two reasons. First, the Oslo accords which created the Palestinian Authority specifically require that a Palestinian state can only arise by negotiation, not by unilateral declarations. Is it wise or moral for the UK parliament to encourage the betrayal of past Israeli-Palestinian agreements? If the Palestinian Authority can renege on past agreements, what point is there in any future agreement with the Palestinians? Second, the Israeli government requires that in return for a state the Palestinians must agree to end permanently the conflict, recognise Israel and agree to security measures – which they refuse to do. The reason the Palestinians want recognition now is to enable them to bypass an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. In other words, they want statehood without agreeing to a permanent peace. A Palestinian state without a peace agreement can only be a recipe for even more conflict.
James Fluss

The Tokyo stock exchange. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA The Tokyo stock exchange. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

Pankaj Mishra’s article (Comment, 14 October) is an important warning about the unsustainable costs of global neoliberalism. But it is also based on a number of misconceptions – a case of Orientalism in reverse. There is no coherent western model of free-market capitalism and liberal democracy which is being imposed on the rest of the world. The west has produced capitalism, socialism, liberalism, and nazism and fascism. Undoubtedly, the US and its allies have aggressively pushed a distinctly neoliberal model on the rest of the world for the past three decades and have engaged in covert and overt wars to make the world safe for capitalism – but democracy has never been a major concern. Variants of capitalism are now adopted by non-western powers which are also exporting it to other parts of the world (China in Africa). Likewise, Latin America, the main crucible of resistance to neoliberal capitalism is largely inspired by Bolivarian socialism which is itself influenced by Western ideas (Bolivar was a great reader of Enlightenment philosophy).

Many societies are deeply divided over questions of democracy, religion, identity and social justice. In this sense the main battle lines of the contemporary world are not civilisational, but ideological and political.
Hadi Enayat

Demonstrators come face to face with police at the Mipim property conference Demonstrators come face to face with police at the Mipim property conference in London. Photograph: Richard Moffoot/Demotix/Corbis

I have just returned home from the protest against the Mipim property fair (Report, 16 October; Letters, 15 October). What is at stake is much more than a land grab for council estates. One of the Mipim sessions is “Exploring healthcare: opportunities for the property industry”. With Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust proposing to sell off 55% of Charing Cross hospital, 45% of St Mary’s Paddington and 100% of the Western Eye hospital, it is also health provision that is seriously under attack from rapacious property developers and starved NHS health providers.
Merril Hammer
Chair, Save Our Hospitals: Hammersmith and Charing Cross

• Now we know the Tories think their NHS “reforms” were a disaster (Report,, 13 October), can a law be passed to prevent any MP or peer from advising or holding a directorship with healthcare companies winning NHS contracts?
Dr David Wrigley
GP, Carnforth, Lancashire

• Mary O’Hara is right to highlight the lack of research into mental health compared with other areas of illness (Mental health research must be made a priority, Society, 15 October). Mental health has for too long been disgracefully neglected. The Liberal Democrats are determined to rectify this injustice, which is why we have committed to establishing a world-leading mental health research fund worth £50m by 2020. We have also committed to at least £500m a year for mental health funding in the next parliament. This is on top of the £120m injection from this government to introduce the first ever waiting time standards – described as a “watershed moment” by campaigners. We must ensure that mental health services are fairly funded if we are to build a fairer society with opportunity for everyone.
Norman Lamb MP
Minister of state for care and support


As a school which specialises in the care and education of boys who require additional support for learning, we were deeply disappointed by the comments from Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud that some disabled people are “not worth” the minimum wage.

As a school we undertake work placement programmes, working with local companies and have more recently established our own programmes to give young people experience of the world of work. The rewards of getting these young people, many of whom boast excellent skills, into work are well worth it, with higher loyalty and retention rates, as well as ensuring that the resultant cost to society of having these young people out of work is avoided.

On top of this there are various recruitment incentives on offer from the Scottish Government, such as the Employer Recruitment Incentive (ERI), in order to help employers provide training and skills development opportunities for those in this group.

This and other packages of support available to employers and young people with additional support needs (ASN) should be made more widely known, as well as a greater effort made to support employers to personalise and design jobs for young people in this category and provide appropriate training. We would urge Scotland’s employers to disregard the comments by Lord Freud and give our most vulnerable young people the support they deserve.

Stuart Jacob
Director, Falkland House School, Falkland, Fife


Lord Freud should not resign over his comments on reducing wages for unemployed disabled people: he should be summarily dismissed. Such attitudes are a throwback to times when disabled people were looked down upon. These views should be treated with contempt, in the same way people like him treat disabled people.

Bearing in mind that the Tories voted against the minimum wage when Labour introduced it, you may see why he holds such views.

Gary Martin
London E8

Charles Dickens says: ‘Don’t vote Ukip’

In his report on the local context of the Rochester and Strood by-election (15 October), Oliver Wright highlights the extent to which the constituency is “a place steeped in island history and a particular type of Englishness”, citing Chatham’s links with Francis Drake and Horatio Nelson. However, for many visitors to the constituency the overwhelming impression is the very good living it earns from its associations with Charles Dickens.

Tourists are lured to Rochester by the plaques giving details of how Dickens incorporated various buildings into his novels. The author’s life and work may be explored in the city’s Dickens Discovery Rooms. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of Dickens on a walking trail. Rochester also hosts an annual Dickens Festival and a Dickens Christmas Market, while Chatham offers the experience of Dickens World, complete with the sounds and smells of Dickensian England.

One of the hallmarks of Dickens is, of course, his humanity. As Fraser’s Magazine put it in its obituary of the writer: “He … regarded the Sermon on the Mount as good teaching … and quarrelled with nothing but intolerance.” In other words, the values that Dickens’s works embody are essentially the antithesis of what makes intolerant, xenophobic Ukip tick.

One cannot therefore convincingly profess to admire Dickens, bending over backwards to celebrate him at every opportunity, and at the same time choose to give Ukip one’s vote. If the voters of ostensibly Dickens-loving Rochester and Strood choose to elect Ukip’s Mark Reckless (whose surname would not have been out of place in a Dickens novel), the constituency risks being stigmatised for the hypocrisy and humbug Dickens so detested.

David Head
Navenby, Lincolnshire

It is now some time since The Independent began to give a weekly column to Nigel Farage. In this time Ukip’s profile has continued to rise, to the extent that there are questions about the amount of coverage given in the media to this one party, which to date has one MP.

With a general election approaching, it is surely time that this one party leader is no longer given a large regular space within your paper – a space not given to the other parties.

What began as perhaps a laudable attempt to redress an unfair political balance now appears to go against the impartial ethos of The Independent.

Michael Brennan


The Lost magic of Dad’s Army

I was surprised to read that a film is to be made of the television series Dad’s Army (9 October). The programme was a huge success for many reasons, but mainly the chemistry of the team of actors who played the Home Guard of Walmington-on-Sea. The entertainment business is littered with the losses of producers thinking they could recreate earlier triumphs.

The director of 1937’s Lost Horizon, Frank Capra, was asked if he planned to make a sequel in which the valley of Shangri-La is revealed to the world. Capra replied: “Where will I find another Ronald Colman?”

Colin Bower

How trade deal could hit the NHS

How many Independent readers, I wonder, are reassured by Jeremy Hunt’s answers to readers’ queries on the NHS (11 October)? I would draw attention to one particularly weasel-worded answer.

On TTIP he writes: “It is totally untrue that TTIP can compel national governments to somehow privatise public services”. Has anyone suggested it could? He is evading the key issue, of health trusts which have already sought to privatise some services, and might wish to bring those services back into the public domain. It’s then that the private companies will seek to sue for loss of income. That is the worry.

Ian Craine
London N15


Unpaid intern work is on the way out

Natasha Daniels’ time as an unpaid public relations intern (report, 16 October) highlights a significant problem.

The PR industry is being dragged from a trade into a highly skilled, well-paid profession. It is trying to stamp out the invidious practice of using unpaid workers – and more than  100 agencies have publicly committed never to hire unpaid interns.

As a visiting lecturer in public relations, I urge students not to go and work for those companies who want unwaged staff. If an agency cannot afford to pay, it is probably unable to give the quality of experience that young people will value putting on their CVs.

Alex Singleton
Associate Director, The Whitehouse Consultancy
London SE1

Let Ched Evans go back to work

Judy Finnigan and Grace Dent (15 October) are commenting on the Ched Evans rape case because an online petition is circulating that states that after serving his sentence he should not be allowed to work as a professional footballer.

If the organisers believe that rape is not treated seriously enough they should campaign for longer prison sentences. What they should not do is seek to impose extra punishments that have not been sanctioned by Parliament or imposed by the court.

When Evans has served his sentence he should be allowed to rebuild his life, like any other ex-offender. There is a fine line between justice and vengeance.

Nigel Scott
London N22

Some votes are more equal than others

Sarah Dale (letter, 14 October) entirely misses the point. The fact that my vote (Green, if you must know) is part of the “historical” record is of scant comfort if my views are nowhere represented (I suppose I could move to Brighton).

If she is in any doubt about the “fairness” of the system, consider that in 2010 Labour received 8,606,517 votes and gained 258 seats, whereas the Lib Dems received 6,836,248 votes and got 57 seats. The Green party got 285,616 votes and only one seat.

In what parallel universe is it fair that it takes 33,000 votes to return one Labour MP, 120,000 for a Lib Dem and 285,000 for a Green?

Edward Collier
Cheltenham,  Gloucestershire

Release the marbles from northern gloom

I really must take issue with Natalie Haynes’s comment that the British Museum houses the Parthenon Marbles in a “spectacular gallery” (15 October). If she wants to see how the marbles should be displayed she needs to visit the genuinely spectacular Acropolis Museum,

Not only is the procession arranged coherently, unlike in the BM where it is inside out, but the marbles are bathed in light and set against a backdrop of the Parthenon itself. So different from the northern gloom of the Duveen Gallery.

Jim Hutchinson
London SE16


Sir, Welfare reform minister Lord Freud is being unfairly castigated (“Minister clings on after ‘£2 minimum wage for disabled’ gaffe”, Oct 15). Twenty years ago I was in charge of the University of Exeter’s research greenhouses, and we agreed with social services to use their severely disabled clients, who were being trained in horticulture, for mundane jobs such as pot-washing. We could not afford to pay them at a university rate but we gave them as much as they could receive without losing benefits. The clients were given self-respect and we had our pots washed. It is logical to suggest that severely disabled should be facilitated to participate in the job market at a rate lower than the national minimum wage — as other countries recognise.
Mark Macnair
Emeritus professor, Exeter University

Sir, Lord Freud was genuinely seeking to help those with disabilities in furtherance of a point made by the father of a handicapped person. The question was: “How to get such into employment?” Overreacting to Lord Freud’s comment does not further the search for an answer.
David Pitts
East Molesey, Surrey

Sir, The gaffe by Lord Freud highlights serious “disablism” at the heart of the establishment. In the Eighties my small business won a government Fit for Work award as one of the best employers of people with disabilities. Back then, a sensible scheme existed. The prospective disabled employee was independently assessed. If they could work at 60 per cent efficiency, then the employer would receive a 40 per cent reimbursement from the Department of Employment. This meant that people who otherwise were stuck at home and frustrated on benefits became wage earners with dignity, enjoyed fellowship, and were useful members of society. In the way of all government schemes, a civil servant persuaded his minister to scrap it and “save money”. Of course, they achieved the opposite. Two things should now happen: first, the government should consider introducing an
up-to-date version of that scheme; second, Lord Freud should be sent to his nearest job centre, clutching his own P45.
Arthur JA Bell
Coulter, South Lanarkshire

Sir, I agree with Lord Freud. My adult son has learning difficulties. He loves work but always needs supervision. He lives happily in supported living; he fills his week by voluntary work and paying to do various activities which are funded by social services. If he could earn £2 an hour he would feel valued. Any low wage would have to be flexible as there are many degrees of disability, but such a scheme would help my son.
Glenda Stock

Sir, As the father of a woman with severe learning difficulties, I applaud the intentions, if not the words, of Lord Freud. Ed Miliband chose to take this issue out of context to create a party political point. Little wonder that politics is viewed with such disdain.
Simon Yates
Croxton Kerrial, Leics

Sir, You would expect political opponents to make capital out of Lord Freud’s remarks. What is disappointing is the rush by those on his own side to disown his views.
Colin Parker
Great Sampford, Essex

Sir, I would be delighted to see my autistic son in a position that brought him self-worth and happiness. There may be extraordinary costs associated with such work — if an employer were forced to absorb those then there may be no job. Mr Miliband should avoid jibes which might compromise the dignity and achievement of some disabled people, and consider the best outcome for some of our most vulnerable citizens
Gordon Muir
Dorking, Surrey

Sir, While visiting a university in Spain, I was greeted by a woman with Down’s syndrome, who meticulously issued my visitor’s pass. Later I found that her wages were subsidised by the government. For such a scheme to work in this country we would need to change our system to allow those on benefits, such as severe disablement allowance, to earn more than £20 per week. If you are only permitted to keep £20 per week, being paid the minimum wage is hardly relevant.
George Plint
Whitway, Hants

Sir, We disagree with the comments attributed to Lord Freud. Many young people with whom we work say they feel like second-class citizens, and Lord Freud has helped to reinforce their perceptions. We call on the government to look at ways to reduce the barriers to work faced by people with disabilities. Organisations like ours support people to prove what they can do, not focus on what they can’t.
Kathryn Rudd
Principal, National Star College, Ullenwood, Glos

Sir, As somebody who was born with only one arm and no legs, I believe that the criticism of Lord Freud misses a more fundamental question over the approach entrenched in society by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). On many job applications, the question about disability is often framed: “The DDA defines disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities’. Do you consider yourself disabled according to this definition?”
I usually answer “No”.
True, without my artificial legs, my differences would have a substantial effect on my day-to-day activities. However, the same could also be said of anyone with glasses or hearing aids. A more discriminating definition would seem necessary if the legal rights enshrined within the act are to be enjoyed by those intended.
Dr John Hayward
Barton, Cambs

Sir, The Remploy factories worked well until the government withdrew funding, with the last factory closing a year ago. It gave thousands of people something to get up for every day. Time for a rethink.
Eric Wheelwright

Sir, I understand Keith Turner’s point about “garage” rhyming with “Farage” (letter, Oct 16). However, I am now gazing at my porage with some puzzlement.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent
Sir, I always refer to the man as Nigel Farrago.
Professor Neil Atherton

Sir, In the fashion article for “working women” (Times2, Oct 15), I note that two of the ensembles are priced at around £1,100 and others at £1,625 and £2,490. A cheaper one is priced at £660 but features only trousers and a baggy T-shirt. And not a pair of shoes or a handbag to be seen. Surely another £1,000? On the opposite page is a faux fur “clutch” like those that my daughters had as pencil cases at school . . . for a bargain £185. Am I missing something?
Adam Gilbert
Edenbridge, Kent

Sir, Your leader (“Migrant Benefits”, Oct 15) stated that our prediction of one million extra migrants in London by 2030 was “no doubt” exaggerated. Far from it. It is taken from the projections of the Office of National Statistics. Indeed all our work is based on official statistics and often casts light on aspects which those in favour of the present massive levels of immigration would rather not be properly understood.
Sir Andrew Green
Chairman, Migration Watch UK

Sir, Banning smoking in buildings, universally welcomed now, brought with it the “hold-your-breath dash” as we ran the gauntlet of smokers’ fog at the entrances of larger buildings. Will there now be the same at park gates? (“Boris set to ban smoking in London’s parks and squares”, Oct 16)
Douglas Martyn
Sandilands, Lanark

Sir, Could Boris also ban burger bars near parks? The smell of cooked onions ruins the pleasure of walking among the flowers.
Josephine Forrest
Nether Stowey, Somerset

Sir, Far from defending the use of Ripa to obtain journalists’ sources,
I said that such data should only be obtained where serious criminal offending is alleged (“DPP defends hacking of journalists’ contacts”, Oct 15). The two cases which have been highlighted involved a part-time judge deliberately perverting the course of justice for which she was jailed, and allegations of a police conspiracy against the government; this was not about either a confidential tip-off over speeding fines or the source of an embarrassing leak, both of which would have been totally inappropriate uses of Ripa in my opinion. A free and open press is vital to our democracy and maintaining confidential sources is an important part of holding power to account.
Alison Saunders
Director of Public Prosecutions


Pensions: will early withdrawals leave people dependent on state benefits later on? Photo: Ian Jones

6:57AM BST 16 Oct 2014


SIR – What is George Osborne up to, allowing people who have accumulated pension pots, varying from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of pounds, access to all that money to spend on whatever they want?

Clearly billions of pounds will be withdrawn and spent, boosting the economy and creating jobs, but what will be the ultimate cost?

The very people who have raided their pension pots will, upon reaching old age, be unable to support themselves as they might have done and will therefore become dependent on the state. Mr Osborne’s plan seems very short-sighted.

Don Roberts
Birkenhead, Cheshire

Folk dance traditions

SIR – Nadia Alnasser is wrong to assert that blackface in every form is racist. The Sweeps Festival in Rochester can hardly be accused of racism: the Morris sides are celebrating the annual day off given to chimney sweeps and the blacking represents soot.

Should we be asking similar questions about the custom of mime artists painting their faces white?

Jeremy C N Price

SIR – Nadia Alnasser claims social historians “agree” that Morris dancing mocks African tribal dances.

The earliest mention of Morris dancing dates to 1448, centuries before the “scramble for Africa”, and the part of the ancient hobby horse in Morris dancing has no African cultural equivalent.

Mark Boyle
Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Passive e-smoking

SIR – Does the fad for e-cigarettes constitute smoking in a public place? It is odd to see people puffing on trains and inside buildings, especially when we don’t know the effects.

Michael Owen
Chippenham, Wiltshire

SIR – Ban smoking in parks? Ban smoking.

Steve Cattell
Hougham, Lincolnshire

Barely decent: a commuter in Bangalore takes part in the annual ‘No Pants Subway Ride’ Photo: AFP

6:58AM BST 16 Oct 2014


SIR – As a boy seaman confined with an ear infection in the Royal Naval Hospital in Singapore, I was asked by the surgeon admiral whether I wore underpants.

My answer in the affirmative was declared to be the cause of my condition. Is there any evidence to support this diagnosis?

Nick Young
Cavendish, Suffolk

SIR – The only advice my mother gave me regarding clothes was to make sure that everything I wore was clean, fresh, aired and with no holes surplus to specification. Nothing else matters.

She also advised me never to get a tattoo. Indeed, I have observed that a tattoo is a sure sign of lack of self-esteem, no matter how successful or rich the wearer.

Huw Beynon
Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire

Anyone for gin?

SIR – I suggest that Mr Stephen substitutes damsons for sloes. They make for a very good gin tipple.

Graham Spencer

Strike a point for lefties

SIR – To Harry de Quetteville’s article on the benefits of being left-handed, may I add that five of the top 16 fencers in the world are left-handed, although only one in eight of the population is. We are still often viewed as sinister, gauche or just different – which is something to strive for nowadays.

Tony Parrack
London SW20

Webber on webs

SIR – Two years ago my wife and I tried using conkers to keep spiders at bay.

We put them in a bowl out of sight in our porch and rediscovered them a few weeks later, covered in cobwebs.

Don Webber
Bembridge, Isle of Wight

May 1994 : Refugees cross the Rusumo border into Tanzania from Rwanda  Photo: Reuters

6:58AM BST 16 Oct 2014


SIR – I read with utter incredulity Gerard O’Donovan’s review of the BBC documentary, This World: Rwanda’s Untold Story.

Genocide denial is the final stage of genocide. That is why Holocaust denial is punishable with a prison sentence in some countries. In investigating possible crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the programme-makers seemed to try to present the story as one of ethnic violence.

This was certainly not the case. Rwanda in 1994 witnessed a very carefully executed genocide. The speed and intensity of killing were terrifying and could only have been carried out in the way they were with a high degree of preparation and organisation, involving officers of the state, politicians, and social and religious leaders at all levels of society.

Of course there were Hutus killed as well, but they were opponents of the Tutsi genocide. The greatest number of victims were killed not because they opposed the government, but because their identity card said they were Tutsi, or their father was Tutsi, or killers at the roadblocks thought they were Tutsi. As with the Holocaust, we will never know the exact number of victims.

Last year I worked with a group of Rwandan actors, most of whom had lived through the genocide, on a piece of theatre used in Holocaust education at a conference of teachers in Kigali, the capital city. The events of 20 years ago still have repercussions on individual lives. The Rwandan people have struggled to come to terms with what happened and, with strong political leadership, are managing with a quiet dignity to rebuild their society.

How insensitive of the BBC to film the trauma of individual memory, and then to use the footage in such a dangerous and reckless way, with no attempt to examine the past from all sides.

Jonathan Salt

Ebola screening has begun at Heathrow airport Photo: ALAMY

6:59AM BST 16 Oct 2014


SIR – The international response to the Ebola crisis, highlighted by the United Nations, lacks common sense.

There are two distinct facets to the control of the disease. The first, which is being addressed, is the treatment and prevention of the spread of disease within the west African countries. The second, and more important, is to prevent the disease becoming a worldwide pandemic.

The only credible policy is to isolate the three countries with closed borders until the disease is brought under control. This interim period would allow the immigration services to implement a policy of stamping exiting passports with a World Health Organisation logo plus the date, allowing destination airports to clearly identify individuals from this area.

These international travellers would be brought under a public health remit with further screening and medical advice without the farrago that is occurring at airports such as Heathrow today.

A G Murphy
London EC4

SIR – In my youth we were quarantined for infectious diseases. Is it because it contravenes human rights that we are not suggesting infected areas be quarantined and that people do not travel from those areas?

With Ebola’s incubation period of, I understand, up to three weeks, there seems little point in spending a fortune putting any screening into practice.

Sue Cooper
Upper Hartfield, East Sussex

Should the public pay extra on their NI contributions to keep the NHS afloat? Photo: Getty Images

7:00AM BST 16 Oct 2014


SIR – Over the past three weeks, I have seen two consultants, had two blood tests, a CT scan and a biopsy. I have now begun long-term chemotherapy treatment.

My treatment is costly; my husband and I would be willing to pay a modest amount each month to ensure that our excellent NHS is available for future generations.

However, I often hear people say: “I have paid my NI contributions all my working life, so I am entitled to use the NHS.” True, but with an ageing population the demand is much greater now than before.

I also have heard it suggested that many people would be prepared to pay a little extra on their NI contributions. As our MPs are unwilling to propose this, perhaps a straw poll should be taken?

Jackie Sturdy
Westward Ho!, Devon

SIR – Spending more money on the NHS is not necessarily the right thing to do. The NHS was created when people couldn’t see a doctor and children were dying of diseases such as scurvy. It was not created to absolve families of looking after elderly relatives; to cure people of diseases that they have brought upon themselves; or to stop people from eating too much by stapling up their stomachs.

The NHS will never be adequately funded if we expect it to address the consequences of people’s failure to take personal responsibility.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – As a recently retired GP, I am saddened by the continuing decline of the NHS. The spirit of those working in the service has gone and the NHS has lost the respect of many who use it.

Sooner or later, a government will have to admit that it is no longer tenable for everything to be free at the point of delivery. No other country has adopted our system. Some payment is required, which could be insurance-linked or refunded in cases that warrant it.

Requiring that GP practices remain open 12 hours every day is also not the answer. What patients need is to know that they can contact a local doctor from 8am to 11pm. For many years we shared this responsibility with another practice, which meant that a GP was on call one in eight evenings and weekends: this was not too onerous and much appreciated by patients, who usually didn’t use A&E inappropriately.

Dr Dick Raffety

SIR – I have often wished that Mary Riddell was running the country instead of the present incumbent of 10 Downing Street, and now I wish that Bryony Gordon was in No 11. Her defence of striking midwives and her assessment of what is wrong with the distribution of work and pay in the NHS is bang on target.

Bryony Lee
Abergele, Denbighshire

John Grisham: we’ve ‘got nuts’ with locking up ‘sex offenders’

6:23PM BST 16 Oct 2014

SIR – May it please your Lordship, I had a bit too much to drink, was unsteady on my feet and, to help keep my balance, I grabbed hold of the gentleman next to me. As a result, my hand slipped into his pocket and became entangled with his wallet. I did not mean to steal anything, and so I plead the Grisham defence (“Child porn shouldn’t always mean jail”, report, October 16).

Peter Walton

Taxing problem

SIR – David Cameron talks about cutting inheritance tax (report, October 15).

I am more concerned about being denied my pension for another six years. This outrageous change mainly affects another huge group of voters – older and angry women – who are being disregarded and have not had time to make contingency plans. Yes, I want to be able to pass on my family home (which would probably not have met the current inheritance threshold anyway), but even more, I would like to have the opportunity to enjoy my modest retirement, supporting my children in work by helping with grandchildren, while I’m still alive.

Carol Fielding
Egerton, Lancashire

SIR – Many mistakenly think that the threshold for inheritance tax starts at £650,000. In fact, the threshold for a single person is £325,000, which is transferable to an existing spouse or civil partner provided it is unused at the time of the second death. Those of us widowed before this provision was enacted are unable to claim again. We still wish to provide for our families after death, but are restricted to the single person’s allowance.

The full inequity of inheritance tax should be revealed, so more people will realise that it applies to them.

Jennifer List
Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – Robert Colvile observes (Why we’re still in the red) that falling tax receipts are forcing the Chancellor to borrow more. He could, of course, simply spend less.

R P Gullett
Bledlow Ridge, Buckinghamshire

The power of contagion

SIR – Over the past months, 4,500 people have died from Ebola, a highly contagious and deadly disease. Western nations are now in a state of panic, attempting to prevent the disease from spreading in, and being exported from, Africa.

At the same time, 30,000 children die every day as a result of illnesses connected with malnutrition. Perhaps it’s a pity hunger isn’t contagious – if it were, then we might actually do something about it.

Roger West
Appenzell, Switzerland

Irish Times:

Sir, – Is the offering of tax relief on the water tax not the most ridiculous, contradictory, politically hollow decision made by a government in a long time? Imposing a tax and then providing relief against it? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – A budget prepared by public servants is likely to be biased in favour of the public sector. If the group preparing the budget were to be drawn from the private sector, I suspect the universal social charge would have been fairly and equitably applied across income bands. As it stands, it blatantly discriminates against the self-employed. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – So the Taoiseach has indicated Fine Gael’s intention to keep increasing USC on incomes over €70,000 in further budgets to prevent higher earners getting “disproportionate benefits” from tax cuts (“Taoiseach pledges to cut income tax rate again in next budget”, October 15th). Fine Gael seems to have switched from being pro-austerity to anti-ambition. Time for a true party of the right to emerge. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – Why does it take two Ministers to deliver a budget speech? After all, the UK, with a population 16 times ours, manages perfectly adequately with one. – Yours, etc,


Kilmainham, Dublin 8.

Sir, – While hardship is still widespread, it is nevertheless true that our exports are booming, our growth rate is amazing, 70,000 people have now got jobs who hadn’t a year ago, and we can now borrow money at a fraction of the interest rate that obtained not so long ago. We are clearly moving in the right direction towards getting our country back on its feet again, and there are four words that should be said, but never will be. It would be nice to hear “thank you” said to Enda Kenny and his colleagues in Government, and to hear “austerity works” said by Paul Murphy and his colleagues in the Anti-Austerity Alliance. – Yours, etc,


Blessington, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The lack of revenue from the 80 per cent levy on land rezoning is more a reflection on both the over-zoning that took place during the Celtic Tiger years, combined with a moribund building sector, meaning there has been no need for rezoning at all.

The best argument for the levy, first recommended in the 1973 Kenny report on the price of land, comes from the report of the Mahon tribunal, which stated that “the introduction of an 80 per cent windfall tax on profits/gains attributable to land rezoning . . . is likely to dramatically reduce incentives to make corrupt payments to influence land zonings should the opportunity to make such profits return”.

In that context the lack of revenue should be taken as a success, and the removal of the levy as opening the door again to planning corruption. – Yours, etc,


Ranelagh, Dublin 6 .

Sir, – I am puzzled as to why Michael Noonan chose to penalise the self-employed with a new rate of 11 per cent USC as compared to 8 per cent for PAYE workers.

This acts as a serious disincentive for people considering setting up a business.

When you factor in concerns that our new-found growth is being heavily lead by foreign direct investment (FDI) companies, surely the logical move would have been to attract people to set up business and create employment ? – Yours, etc,


Managing Director,

Snap Citywest,

Citywest Business Campus,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I welcome Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan’s plans to introduce legislation to outlaw discrimination in school admissions policies (“Blackrock old boys urged to fight ‘unjust’ Bill”, October 11th). Former Blackrock College students, known as “Rockmen”, and indeed alumni of other schools in the private sector, are being prompted to oppose the “unjust State interference” in the school’s admissions policy. This draft Bill, if introduced, would prevent schools from reserving places for the sons of past pupils.

We are now well used to the perennial debate on the issue of hard-pressed taxpayers subsidising fee-paying educational institutions of privilege and watching the formidable middle class and the well-resourced recipient private schools rushing to defend what is increasingly seen as the indefensible. The resilience of some of these private schools in weathering the economic tsunami washing over us is matched by their energy in defending the status quo of the restrictive admissions policies that make these school virtually inaccessible to children of immigrants, the Travelling community, children with special needs and those whose parents cannot afford the cost. Yet it is this same category of people who by their taxes help fund the State’s €100 million subvention of private schools. This subvention is then used to provide facilities that State schools cannot afford. There is also evidence that some of this State funding is used to lower the pupil-teacher ratio at these institutions of privilege, which in turn discriminates against children in State schools.

Fee-paying schools have been the best-resourced in the State. Just like private hospitals that are profitable businesses, private fee-paying schools with restrictive admissions policies must resource themselves.

Why should taxpayers, the vast majority of whom could never aspire to such a privileged education for their own children, be expected to subsidise exclusive boarding schools for the wealthy privileged when State-run schools are having their funding reduced? – Yours, etc,


Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The opinion piece by Anthony White (“Why wind is not the answer to Ireland’s energy question”, Opinion & Analysis, October 14th) proffers a rather new solution to Ireland’s energy and CO2 emission problems, the large-scale importation of wood pellets from the US. It is suggested that these be used as fuel in Moneypoint, replacing imported coal. Would that it were so simple!

While it is true that this would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions compared to coal, burning wood still releases CO2. It would also do nothing to reduce our dependence on imported fuel.

In fact, we would have to import almost twice as much by weight as coal, depending on the moisture content of the wood pellets. The widespread assumption that the fuel is carbon neutral is also now being seriously questioned, as it depends on how the fuel is harvested and on forestry management methods. Cost is also highly variable, while unfortunately coal has never been cheaper, as gas from fracking in the US has meant it is no longer in demand there. Wind energy on the other hand does not generate CO2 (except in initial turbine and tower manufacture and construction). It is something we are not short of and at times produces up to 50 per cent of our electricity needs. In fact 16 per cent of our needs were provided by wind over 2013, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, resulting in massive reductions in CO2 emissions. Of course it is variable so we need some baseline electricity, as we always will. This is best provided by the relatively clean existing and planned combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power stations.

On one thing we can agree – coal-burning at Moneypoint should be phased out! – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Further to Kathy Sheridan’s “How much will Irish Water fiasco cost our democracy?” (Opinion & Analysis, October 15th), it is quite staggering to read that this awful company has spent €550,000 on public relations in its first 13 months.

Surely it is entitled to a refund? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Today I challenged a man who was taking photographs of the front of my house and those of my neighbours. It transpired he was working for Irish Water and they needed images of our houses. This means that the data collected and stored by Irish Water will include our name, email, phone number, address, bank account details, signature, PPS number and photograph of our dwellings. Is all this personal data required enough or would Irish Water also like a photograph of me in the shower? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Contrary to what RTÉ has been broadcasting recently, FM is not widely available in the north of Ireland and there is no digital signal here either.

I was amused to hear on the radio that RTÉ will travel to the “UK” to see what the problems are. What they mean is they will travel to Britain. What about those of us on the island of Ireland who will not be able to receive RTÉ without considerable financial outlay?

This issue is one that our politicians on both sides of the Border should be resolving and not RTÉ alone. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Depriving thousands of Irish people at home and, more importantly, abroad of this much-loved service will save a quarter of a million euro. RTÉ employs individuals working part-time for more than that amount. Who proposed this blunder? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – I write as the son of parents who left Ireland in the 1950s and started a new life in Birmingham and for whom the radio from home was hugely important – a way of keeping in touch, whether that was through news, music or sport. I recall many happy hours spent with my late father listening to GAA matches on a Sunday afternoon either in the comfort of our home or in the company of like-minded people gathered together in parks or on the touchline at GAA matches played in Birmingham. My continuing love of Gaelic sport was fired by those transmissions and has caused me to travel to Croke Park on many occasions. My mother still listens to RTÉ, falling into silence at the Angelus bell and tapping her feet to Céilí House. Simple pleasures that will be lost to her and many others. It is to RTÉ’s shame that the longwave transmission is to cease with no readily accessible replacement. It is a case out of sight, out of sound! – Yours, etc,


Hall Green,


Sir, – Surely now is the perfect opportunity for RTÉ to introduce the digital radio (DAB) service, currently available in just three regions in Ireland (Cork, Limerick and the greater Dublin area) to the entire country?

In the meantime, my digital radio remains as useful as an e-voting machine or a postcode here in the Kingdom. – Yours, etc,



Co Kerry.

A chara, – Finally details regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have emerged from the shadows. If we are not careful, the citizens of Europe will sleepwalk into accepting an agreement that will fundamentally rebalance powers from ordinary people to multinational companies. The US negotiators seek to create a Europe where sovereign governments will be constrained from enacting progressive trade union legislation or even from raising the minimum wage. A Europe where environmental issues become increasingly irrelevant. A Europe where our food safety standards are lowered to those of the US. A Europe where public services such as education are plundered for profit. A Europe where billions of our tax euro will be given in compensation to big business by a secretive tribunal. A Europe that will be less democratic, less progressive and less secure. – Is mise,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – Under the headline “President seeks a new vision for European Union” (October 16th), you report President Michael D Higgins as saying, among other things, the following in the course of an address to the Institute of International and European Affairs: “There is nothing wrong with technical efficiency, rather the contrary. The danger arises from a conception of economic policy and technocratic administration that are governed chiefly by the instrumental criteria of ‘efficiency’ and ‘success’ and are thus immune to moral-normative considerations ” .

Even allowing for the forum in which he was speaking, the second sentence must surely be in the running for a 2014 Fog Index prize. We simple folk also take an interest in what our President does and says. I, as one of them, can only guess at what immunity to “moral-normative considerations” entails. – Yours, etc,


Arklow, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I welcome the letter from my distinguished colleague, Frank Bannister (October 15th). When a great university such as UCD declines to below 200 in the World Rankings we must say that enough is enough. Nor can we accept spin about Trinity itself in the “prestigious” top 150.

The education of our undergraduates, in large part by inexperienced postgraduates, is a long-continuing scandal.

The Labour Party’s abolition of third-level fees in 1995 was just another bonus for the sons and daughters of bankers. It did little or nothing for the many brilliant Irish children from working-class backgrounds without access to our great universities. We must restore fees for those middle-class and upwardly mobile families able to afford them and add scholarships for those of poor backgrounds unable to face the prospect of adding future debt to present deprivation. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 2

Sir, – The article “Bishops warn of secularisation of Catholic schools” (October 13th) quotes from the report Catholic Education at Second Level: Looking to the Future, which says, among other things, that “religious education deals with ultimate questions” and goes on to suggest that as such religion should be afforded a special status. So is this report saying that those of us of no religion are unable to deal with “the ultimate questions”? Or that schools of no denominational status are unable to facilitate and encourage any philosophical debate? I think not. In fact, I think that those with no faith-based prejudices are better able to facilitate debate on the ultimate questions. – Yours, etc,


Clonsilla, Dublin 15.

Sir, – The Central Bank’s move to place restrictions on mortgages is a welcome first step in stabilising house prices. Yet it is astonishing to listen to people complain simply because the new rules prevent them from borrowing beyond their means.

The boom proved that we as a nation are incapable of making rational decisions when it comes to buying property.

The seductive power of cheap credit and the relentless encouragement to get on the “property ladder” left many people vulnerable to pressured decisions that led to grave financial consequences. It is time we matured as a nation and realised that we must live within our means, and if it takes regulations to force us to do so, then so be it. – Yours, etc,



Co Louth.

Sir, – Further to Frank McCartan’s letter (October 11th), when and how did it become all right to inflict someone else’s idea of “music” on us, often at a volume that makes it impossible to ignore. I notice that both of the German-owned supermarkets have the solution – silence. – Yours, etc,


Drumcondra, Dublin 9.

Sir, – I find myself in agreement with the comments of Kieran McHugh (October 15th) regarding salaries in the 1970s. Working as a lab technician in Kevin Street in 1974 my salary was £27.50 per week, which on an annual basis was £1,430. Good money at the time. – Yours, etc,

MARY KING, Dublin 7.

Sir, – I wondered why the bus was crawling along what looked like an empty bus lane. It appeared that a long line of cars was encroaching on the lane, preventing the bus driver from using it. I wonder if car drivers could be asked to stay in their own lane. – Yours, etc,


Crumlin, Dublin 12.

Irish Independent:

I took immense pleasure in reading your coverage of the One Young World Summit, which brought people of diverse cultures to share their ideas and worries about the future.

This is a respite from the panic and fear caused by the Ebola outbreak in west Africa. The old and experienced have worked tirelessly to find cures and vaccinations to intractable diseases, to reduce conflicts and poverty and to reconcile communities in conflict.

As the Ebola outbreak has demonstrated, many have sacrificed their lives to save others’ lives; others have worked and are still working without recognition to bring the condition under control, to defend human rights, to protect the environment and to promote democracy and social justice across the globe.

These challenges will lurk on the horizons for decades to come.

Young people are the backbone of societies. The impetus to success lies on their shoulders. They fall prey to sexual enslavement, labour exploitation, rape, diseases and murder. Their point of view should be included in any meaningful debates intended to unravel daunting issues, from climate change to human rights violations and democratic governance.

By hosting this conference, Ireland has expanded democratic horizons, allowing the young to share concerns with the elders. This is a remarkable feat that is bound to galvanize the ingenuity and energy of citizens, create healthy societies, promote democracy, ecological integrity and equity – and ultimately lead to fairer and just society.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2, UK

In thrall to the bondholders

When someone says we are paying €8bn a year in interest payments alone on our national debt, it tends not to be absorbed.

When they say that is the full tax paid by a total of 850,000 workers per annum paying €9,412 each, it certainly wakes you up.

It’s hoped that the most insidious taxes of late, in the form of water and property charges, will raise, at best €1bn per annum. If we were not paying that €8bn a year in interest, could you imagine the positive benefits it would have on all aspects of Irish life? And when you take this into account, the ridiculousness of even considering these tax impositions is clear.

But it’s unavoidable right? After all, some very prudent and thrifty bond market people lent Ireland real, hard cash so we could keep paying wages and funding our welfare and services, and they need to be rewarded in the form of interest bonuses.

However, like everything we accept about the economy, this is not the situation. This money is often provided by credit creation, ie, these people use banks to release credit to us based on our promise to pay them back. It is simply numbers typed into computers and it ensnares generations of our people.

It is funny how no economist, politician or commentator will say that the emperor has no clothes. An institution of our own could issue credit like this, most definitely interest free and partly or mostly debt free, if sufficiently controlled.

A significant proportion of the current national debt of €190bn is due to illusory credit creation based on our promise to pay. It could be written off at a stroke of a pen if the will was there, which it absolutely would be if the people knew the truth of it.

The irony is that the people who did lend Ireland real money are often our insurance and pension companies. So we ‘insure’ our individual futures but these companies use that contract to take our money and ensnare us via our national financing with hefty interest payments. Again, if we circulated our own credit, this would stop.

For those who would cry foul at the naivety of such an argument, well, if you believe it is okay for these bondholders to release credit to us that it then makes them legitimate creditors over Ireland and her people, then you believe these people own Ireland in perpetuity.

You see, they are the only ones who can ‘fund’ Ireland, therefore that means at any point they have the ‘potential energy’ to do this. That means before we have an idea of a new road or a school or increased welfare payments, they have control of it. Hence they own it both physically and ‘energetically’. Not us.

As I say, the stroke of a pen is all it takes.

Barry Fitzgerald

Lissarda, Co Cork

Bring on the bedroom tax

I must compliment the Government on its ability to balance the books by raising new taxes, especially the property tax and the water tax. The money is sorely needed to pay our TDs, public servants, semi-state bodies, etc.

However, there is scope for additional taxes which I believe no reasonable person would object to. In the old days, people living on the landlord’s estate had to pay tax on every window in their cabin, and if it had a chimney, they had to pay tax on that as well. More recently, in the UK, a bedroom tax has been proposed. Why not here?

Farmers in this country are very wealthy and it is only right that the Government should impose a tax on every cow, on every farm animal, and on every acre of land. That money could be usefully spent on those of us working in the public service. My Mercedes is now five years old and needs replacing.

Our social welfare funding is far too generous. There is no need for those of us contributing to a private or work pension to be paid the state pension. The state pension is only for paupers and silly people who did not make provision for their retirement. And it is absurd for the Government to provide welfare benefits and medical cards for people over 70.

As regards education, the Government should not pay student fees at all. I paid for all my degrees. Let me be frank. If you cannot pay for your education, you do not need it. Now, that’s common sense.

Today, money is king and we are very fortunate to have a Government that recognises that fact.

James M Bourke

Terenure, Dublin 6

Gaza response

I have just seen Dr Derek O’Flynn’s comments on my letter (Irish Independent, October 3) concerning the situation in Gaza. I am so pleased that he agrees with me in that subtle, nuanced, Irish way. As we say Derek, “aithnionn ciarog ciarog eile”. Gurbh maith agat.

Ted O’Keeffe

Ranelagh, Dublin 6

ECB came to our rescue

In his letter (Irish Independent, October 16), Simon O’Connor asserts that the ECB and EU threatened to “bankrupt Ireland” if we did not rescue the banks. He omits to mention the fact that, thanks to the decisions of a small number of its own most powerful citizens, this country, including its banks, was already bankrupt and that it was the ECB and EU, along with the IMF, that came to our rescue, using other countries’ taxpayers’ money.

He rightly points to the fact that the “rising tide of protest” across the country is a recognition of “the number of homeless”, “the number of suicides” and the length of “hospital waiting lists.”

He fails to mention, however, that, despite the rising tide of protest, the majority of people eligible to vote in the recent by-elections did not bother to turn up to vote.

Lastly, he omits to mention the fact that all of this has a background of a recently bankrupt and a currently over-borrowed country.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

Rome should show compassion

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin recently spoke compassionately in support of divorced couples. Jesus, too, was a compassionate person.

Shortly afterwards, an Australian couple entertained the Vatican synod on the joys of sex.

Apparently, it was less easy to get children of divorced couples who might talk about the joys of separation.

Donal O’Driscoll

Blackrock, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

Blood Transfusion

October 16, 2014

16 October 2014 Blood Transfusion

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day I tidy the office and Mary is off for a Blood Transfusion.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gamon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Hugh Rae – obituary

Hugh Rae was a Glaswegian riveter’s son who wrote bodice-rippers as ‘Jessica Stirling’

Hugh Rae

Hugh Rae Photo: THE SCOTSMAN

5:28PM BST 15 Oct 2014


Hugh Rae, who has died aged 78, was a 15-stone Glaswegian son of a riveter and wrote blockbusting historical romantic fiction, mostly set in his native Scotland, under the nom de plume Jessica Stirling.

Rae began his literary career writing crime thrillers under his own name. The idea for Jessica Stirling was dreamed up in a coffee shop in Stirling where Rae was eating chocolate cake with Peggy Coghlan, an author of romantic short stories. Together they came up with Jessica, named after a publisher who had suggested that the two might collaborate on a historical romantic epic set in the Victorian period. It had to be written under a female pseudonym because, as Rae explained, “for some reason they [the publishers] are convinced that women only want to read romantic fiction written by women”.

With Peggy Coghlan, Rae wrote seven Jessica Stirling novels, and he went on to write some 30 more Jessica Stirling books on his own for Hodder & Stoughton, churning out about two a year and becoming one of the most popular authors of the “saga novel”, a genre perfected by Catherine Cookson.

Rae claimed that the experience had given him insights into the female psyche (“You women are all obsessed with your hair”), while his knowledge of the intricacies of female lingerie was second to none (“I know I probably spend longer wondering about women’s corsets than is healthy”).

Novels by Jessica Stirling (aka Hugh Rae)

For some 25 years his publishers faithfully preserved the fiction that Jessica Stirling was a woman, and for some years Rae was banned from speaking to the press. But his cover was blown in 1999 when Jessica Stirling’s new bestseller The Wind from the Hills, the second of a trilogy set in Mull in the 1890s (“Love did not burst upon Innis like a glorious red and gold Mull sunset after a day of torrential rain…”), was shortlisted for the Parker Romantic Novel of the Year prize, the bodice-ripping equivalent of the Booker.

After the story of Jessica’s true identity broke on an astounded literary world, Rae was nonplussed: “I don’t know what all the fuss was about. I had been out of the closet for about 20 years in Scotland, going to libraries and giving talks as Jessica in my hiking boots.”

Hugh Crauford Rae was born in the Knightswood district of Glasgow on November 22 1935 and published his first stories aged 11 in the Robin comic, winning a cricket bat the same year in a children’s writing competition. After leaving school at 16 he found a job in the antiquarian department of a Glasgow bookshop, where he spent 12 years, interrupted by National Service in the RAF. He continued writing short stories, many of which were published in American magazines. His first novel, Skinner, published in the mid-1960s when he was 28, was based on the case of the serial killer Peter Manuel, who was hanged at Barlinnie Prison for seven murders. The advance paid by the publishers allowed him to give up his job to become a full time writer.

Rae continued to write thrillers and crime fiction under his own name and a number of pseudonyms — his thriller The Marksman was made into a film by the BBC — but none of his other books was as successful as those he wrote as Jessica Stirling, which sold millions and were reported (in 1999) to be earning him more than £50,000 a year.

Rae’s novels were meticulously researched and, before starting a new work, he would spend up to £500 on books dealing with the relevant historical period. His last Jessica Stirling title, The Constant Star, was published in August.

Rae lectured in creative writing at Glasgow University Adult Education classes and served on the Scottish Arts Council and on committees of the Scottish Association of Writers and Society of Authors in Scotland.

Hugh Rae was predeceased by his wife, Liz. Their daughter survives him.

Hugh Rae, born November 22 1935, died September 24 2014


Sadiq Khan MP at Westminster, London, Britain  - 11 Oct 2012 Sadiq Khan is the man charged with restoring Labour’s fortunes against the Green party in the opinion polls. Photograph: Jonathan Goldberg/Rex

So Sadiq Khan MP, who has been charged by Labour’s election campaign manger Douglas Alexander to lead the fightback against Green gains in the opinion polls (Report, 15 October), thinks that Labour has changed and it shares Green values and “will be a government [Green supporters] can be proud of”. Really? Mr Khan is either delusional or very ill-informed on Green party policies. The Greens oppose all UK nuclear weapons worldwide and oppose replacing the £100bn Trident nuclear weapons system of mass destruction; the Greens oppose arms sales; the Greens oppose the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership presently being cooked up by big business in their own interests; the Greens oppose fracking; and the Greens oppose nuclear energy, and particularly the building of the taxpayer-subsidised £34bn new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C (HPC).

Labour supports all of these. Indeed, on HPC, Tom Greatrex, Labour’s shadow energy minister, last week welcomed the European commission decision to permit massive subsidies for HPC, telling Business Green: “The commission’s decision emphasises the delivery of value for the consumer, and serves as a reminder to the government that transparency and accountability are important principles.”

Confusingly, Mr Greatrex subsequently wrote to the National Audit Office and parliament’s public accounts committee, requesting them to review the subsidies, stating: “We must ensure that consumers are getting the best possible deal in the construction of Hinkley Point C. The substantial changes brought about by the European commission raise questions about whether further scrutiny could lead to additional improvements.”

Labour’s position on HPC is as clear as mud. There are many deep green lines Labour has to cross before it has any chance of luring Green voters to switch. I am not holding my breath.
David Lowry
Stoneleigh, Surrey

• So, Sadiq Khan will be trying to persuade Green voters, rather than by scaring or intimidating them to vote Labour at the general election? If so, perhaps Khan could explain why Caroline Lucas’s seat in Brighton is one of Labour’s target seats. During the current parliament, Lucas is widely regarded as the most effective opposition MP. For many of us, she is the real leader of the opposition inside and outside parliament and puts Ed Miliband’s performances to shame. The reason for the “Green surge” is dissatisfaction with Labour’s merely being a negative alternative to the Con-Dem government. The Greens give the hope that Labour doesn’t.
David Melvin
Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire

• Given the findings of the 2014 annual Credit Suisse global wealth report which shows that the UK is the most unequal of all the G7 economies (Report, 15 October); and given that we know citizens of more economically equal societies enjoy happier and healthier and more fulfilling lives than those who live in highly unequal ones; that children from poor families are more likely to underachieve in schools than those from wealthier backgrounds; that the availability of good affordable housing – either to rent or to buy – is increasingly beyond the means of even middle-earners; and that substantial reductions in income and wealth differences are positively consequential for moves towards an environmentally sustainable way of life, why doesn’t the Labour leadership specify by how much it would like in government to redistribute income and wealth from the top 1% to the bottom 10% in order to promote greater equality, and how it would do so? Such a commitment, including proposals, would distinguish the Labour party from all the others in a graphic and electorally appealing fashion. It would also articulate well with the “One nation Labour” notion and Ed Miliband’s “togetherness” idea, not to mention the “democratic socialist” identity enshrined in the Labour’s constitution.
David Halpin

• It is not a question of immigration being a good or a bad thing for the UK (Letters, 14 October). It is far more complex. In economic terms, the fact is that the UK has never managed such a substantial unplanned rise in surplus labour as it has in the last 10 years. In recent times we’ve seen the re-emergence of the default tendency of many UK businesses to manage their operations with employees that can be easily laid off (or zero contracted) rather than take the risk of investing in new plant, machinery and technology. This is the explanation for why the number of people in employment has risen latterly while investment has remained stubbornly flat. Hence the UK’s much-vaunted labour flexibility and open borders are now actively contributing to the UK’s poorer productivity performance.

The UK economy derives so much of its activity from consumer spending that greater numbers of relatively low-paid people in work may boost overall GDP growth marginally but not increase GDP per capita, which is an arguably more important metric. As has been recently reported, the recent rise in employment in the UK has not led to an increase in income tax receipts to the HMRC, which entirely supports this thesis.

The reintroduction of immigration controls to limit the number of citizens entering the UK from anywhere, including other EU countries, is pretty much inevitable. This is not because immigration per se is a bad thing but because the uncontrolled movements of people may, at times, have unforeseen adverse effects. Until economists, university professors and politicians of different persuasions grasp this, Ukip will have a free ride in the immigration debate.
Andrew Harris
Wallingford, Oxfordshire

• Still in their own English rotten boroughs It is nice to know the spirit of Dame Shirley Porter lives on in Barnet council, when an estate will be redeveloped so that only the wealthy can afford the affordable housing (At yacht parties in Cannes, councils have been selling our homes from under us, 14 October). This will help turn West Hendon ward Tory and so in response, to an objector, Cllr Tom Davey naturally says: “Those are the people we want.” And yet, in the 50-year history of the borough, the Conservatives have only once won more the half the votes, but have misruled for all but eight years.

Labour must be regretting failing to introduce preference votes, like in Scotland, for local elections, now Ukip is on the rise in their own heartlands, having been able to ignore and sideline more moderate opinions. As the party base has withered away, the metropolitan elite has been able to parachute favoured candidates into safe parliamentary seats while taking their own activists for granted. The adoption of the single transferable vote, in lower-turnout local elections, would introduce some desperately needed stability with an injection of plurality and diversity without, like the list system used for the European parliament, giving lazy extremists an easy ride.
David Nowell
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

• The pattern of Ukip’s development has for some time been predictable to students of far-right interwar history: Ukip support will grow and result in a substantial bloc of MPs in 2015 – money is coming through (from whom?), defections have begun. Many Tories, half Eurosceptic already, would ally with Ukip, more will defect, Cameron is losing control. Labour, under Miliband and Balls, has been a singularly inept opposition. The only party consistently opposing Ukip and the suicidal proposals to exit from Europe and ditch human rights are the Lib Dems, with Nick Clegg the only leader openly to challenge Farage. Many are frightened of stating publicly the real danger Ukip presents – and that may drive more people into Ukip’s ranks. Democrats must speak out and actively campaign against the highly dangerous populism of Farage.
Peter Mullarky
Horsham, West Sussex

Lord Freud disability remarks Welfare reform minister Lord Freud, who has suggested some disabled people are ‘not worth’ the full minimum wage. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA

While ministers vilify people on benefits (Freud sorry for comment about disabled people, 15 October), we urge everyone who thinks this is wrong to stand up for benefit justice. Attacks on benefits threaten everyone who is low-paid, not working, sick, has disabilities or plain unlucky. Freezing housing and other benefits would cut the income of 50% of households – those with least money, without work or on low pay, zero hours and high rent. The threat to remove all benefit from people under 21 – many in full-time work, with children, and without rich families to support them – shows ministers’ contempt for our young people and how tough life is for them.

The least well-off, in work or not, did not cause the deficit, triggered by trillions in bank bailouts and subsidies. Why should they be penalised, while the richest benefit from more tax cuts? We should not stigmatise or blame each other, but defy and beat these attacks on Britain’s welfare safety net. We can force ministers to retreat, as we have in the fight against Atos, workfare and the bedroom tax. Now is the time to stand up and be counted. We will be supporting the TUC’s Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstration on Saturday 18 October.
Ellen Clifford Disabled People Against Cuts
Eileen Short Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation
John McDonnell MP Lab, Hayes and Harlington
Mark Serwotka PCS union general secretary
Len McCluskey Unite union general secretary
Austin Mitchell MP Lab, Great Grimsby, chair council housing group of MPs
Ian Lavery MP Lab, Wansbeck
Natalie Bennett Leader, Green party
Dot Gibson General secretary, National Pensioners Convention
Paul Kenny GMB union general secretary
Billy Hayes CWU union general secretary

• What Jeremy Hunt is actually saying (Pay rises would mean loss of 15,000 nurses says Hunt, 13 October) is that thousands of health workers need to take a pay cut in order to fund the NHS properly. Why is this fairer than everyone paying a small tax increase? Isn’t that how the collective model of health funding is supposed to work?
Ian Reissmann
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Ada Lovelace Ada Lovelace

I read with interest about Ada Lovelace Day (This woman’s work, G2, 14 October), as I too was a programmer at Elliot Brothers from 1951-53. I wrote the first in-house program for its prototype computer “Nicholas”, as well as the “initial orders” that instructed Nicholas how to read and assemble the punched tape holes which were to be fed to it. I left Elliot Brothers to marry and live in Cornwall. It was another 10 years before the first computer made an appearance. After bringing up my children I was informed by the government training department that anyone over 35 was past it as far as computers were concerned and I should concentrate on shorthand and typing. Eventually the advent of the PC remedied this. Now in my old age, I have no regrets for not making a fortune as did Dina St Johnston and Dame Stephanie Shirley. My riches are my memories of Cornwall, its beautiful coast and its Celtic culture. These too can change the world.
Brighid Simpkin

Woman with fingers in ears Piped music pain … wire-cutters should do the trick. Photograph: Aagamia/Getty Images

Imagine my surprise when, after very many years of trying, we have won the Azed crossword and the Guardian prize in the same week. What is more astounding is that someone else (MP Coan of Edinburgh) has the same achievement. What are the odds on this?
Allan and Jenny Cheetham
Upminster, Essex

• How about confining Brand, Emin and Fry to the letters page and giving some editorial space to Flett, Bright and Nicholson (Letters, 15 October)?
Pete Bibby

• Mrs Clooney is to advise on Greece’s claim for the return of the Elgin marbles (Report, 14 October). She might want to look closer to home. The font from our church, in which Mayflower Pilgrim Father William Brewster was baptised, languishes in a church in Mr Obama’s neighbourhood of Southside Chicago. Can we have it back please?
Ed Marshall
Scrooby, Nottinghamshire

• Christopher Hogwood (Obituary, 24 September) was not only an early musician but also an early activist against piped music. A model to us all, he would carry and occasionally bring into play a small pair of wire-cutters. Once, in a Cambridge restaurant, he asked if the inevitable Vivaldi might at least be turned down. As the waiter went off to attend to the request, a diner at the next table leant over and murmured sympathetically “We’re not musical either.”
Richard Abram
Wanstead Park, Essex

• Interesting statistics regarding women readers and your letters page (Open door, 13 October). I read it daily and often this results in breakfast table discussions. Perhaps male readers feel more of an urge to tell the wider world what they think.
Annette Dent
Bradford, West Yorkshire


The rising numbers of cases of Ebola is alarming. I am confused as to why the precautions to prevent the spread of this incredibly infectious virus are so different from those that would be adopted in the case of animal diseases. In the latter case we would see bans on movement of livestock from affected areas and other countries would prohibit the import of any animal or possibly affected product.

In this case the only precaution to prevent spread into the UK is a questionnaire which will almost certainly be ineffective and in any case will be applied too late to prevent infection of airport staff, other passengers and local health workers.

Is it not time to prevent any movement of people in and out of any country having several cases in the general population, except in exceptional cases, and then after a period in quarantine?

Britain must be a likely place for Ebola to occur, given that we have decided to allow our airports, particularly Heathrow, to be used a transit points for travellers from all over the world. The risk of disease transmission should surely be taken into account when considering whether this role should be expanded even further by the building of additional runways.

The profits of the airlines and the airport operators should not take precedence over the health of the local population.

Nigel Long

The Government has decided that there is sufficient risk to introduce Ebola screening on UK arrival. This implies that airline and other staff are exposed to that risk in transit.

What about the duty of care their employers owe them? What about the risk to passengers? Furthermore, aircraft may need special disinfection measures before reuse.

There needs to be much more rigorous screening, perhaps quarantine, before people are even permitted to leave high-risk countries, particularly for their own good.

Giles du Boulay
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Lying-in-state for a murderous king

The discovery of the remains of King Richard III has done nothing to dispel the fierce controversy surrounding his reputation (“Richard’s car park bones to be reinterred, after three days lying in state”, 15 October).

Despite all the protestation of the king’s “Ricardian” enthusiasts, it remains the consensus among historians of the period that Richard seized the throne illegally, arranged the judicial murder of Lord Hastings and was almost certainly guilty of having his nephews murdered in the Tower. His remains are of valid academic interest but holding an elaborate funeral procession followed by a lying-in-state for a murderer is quite inappropriate.

Still, at least now that we know where his grave will be, arrangements can be made to dance on it.

Dr Sean Lang
Senior Lecturer in History
Anglia Ruskin University


It is to be hoped that amid the pageantry and prayers that will accompany Richard III to his second grave there will be some remembrance of the men who were put to death to facilitate his becoming, as the Ricardians love to put it, “an anointed king”.

His sister-in-law’s relatives and associates Rivers, Vaughan, Grey and Haut were executed, apparently without trial, and their bodies dumped in some pit in Pontefract more nameless than a Leicester municipal car park. Lord Chamberlain Hastings was beheaded at a moment’s notice on Richard’s direct orders.

His nephews, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, escaped with their lives only in the imagination of Richard III’s ardent fan club, which constantly reminds us that Richard was, as medieval kings go, a benign ruler, a sort of grandaddy of the welfare state. Might not these latter good deeds have been inspired by a guilty conscience?

Peter Forster
London N4


No excuses for Boko Haram

Professor Garry’s claim (letter, 15 August) that removing girls from their families against their will is normal in Northern Nigeria comes dangerously close to providing an excuse for Boko Haram.

The decision to marry off a girl is made by the family; and these girls’ families had taken the decision to educate their girls beyond marrying age (15). Furthermore, they came from mainly Christian families, who would not have consented to marrying their daughters to Muslims, or indeed to having their girls sold as concubines, fifth wives or slaves.

Thus, even if Boko Haram had conscientiously thought that these girls ought to be married, they must in conscience be consistent and defer to the families’ rights in this matter, which they did not.

Furthermore, if they were so conscientiously Muslim, why have so many of the girls been raped? Does not Islam forbid rape?

Culture is not a genuine explanation for this behaviour. It was kidnapping, rape and religious intolerance on a massive scale, and so for the kidnappers there should be not the tiniest excuse or the slightest mercy.

Francis Beswick
Stretford, Greater Manchester

When teachers had to take an oath

Brian Dalton, in his letter of 13 October, is rightly contemptuous of “oath-taking” by teachers. If this is the best idea that Tristram Hunt can bring back from Singapore, educational policy in this country has a mountain to climb.

As a teacher in southern China for many years, I was routinely asked to take such “oaths” and always refused. Foreign teachers were often asked to write “codes of conduct” for themselves, and at one stage to organise “self-criticism” groups, as though Mao Zedong were alive and well, and we had failed to quote passages from his little red book to an appropriately ardent and heartfelt standard.

Such suggestions were always made after pupil misconduct, where Chinese management seemed ineffective, or after some other crisis where management sought to deflect blame and change the subject.

“See how you foreigners can improve yourselves,” was a routine dodge I well recall. Is this really what we want here?

If Mr Hunt regards a “Hippocratic oath” as remotely relevant to education in this country, I suggest he start by taking one himself.

Something beginning “I do solemnly swear to get a grip…” should do.

Mike Galvin
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire


Unfair to denounce Nigel Farage

Ukip does not  stigmatise people who are HIV positive (letter, 14 October). Ukip is very sympathetic. However, we have a National Health Service, not an international one. The NHS is in dire straits with a £30bn black hole and cannot afford to treat the whole world.

Similarly, Ukip does not demonise Eastern Europeans. We do not have the room and the infrastructure for 250,000 extra people every year. Also, with the EU open-door policy other countries outside the EU including our Commonwealth cousins are discriminated against and cannot come here.

Ukip believes in an NHS free of charge, but other governments have allowed privatisation on a large scale, such as PFI arrangements from the Labour Government, which has saddled our children and grandchildren with a debt for years to come.

Ukip believes in low taxes, especially to take all those on minimum wage out of tax altogether.

Nigel Farage is not a populist. He has worked tirelessly and given up his life to get the country out of the undemocratic and corrupt EU. Whatever people’s views on this, we have never had a say since 1975. He is a conviction politician. Why should people denounce him? We used to have free speech in this country.

Barbara Fairweather
Bicester, Oxfordshire


I find it somewhat baffling that Mr Farage, while slating “Westminster parties” and “Westminster politicians” seems to be straining every nerve and sinew precisely to become one of them.

Angela Peyton
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Smoking ban in the wrong place

What a pointless suggestion from Lord Darzi, to ban smoking in parks. I have never been inconvenienced by smokers in the vast open spaces of our public parks, where I can easily avoid them.

If Lord Darzi would like to become a genuine do-gooder, why doesn’t he propose a ban on smoking at bus stops, where it is almost impossible to escape from the noxious fumes emanating from those recalcitrant baddies?

Alan Pedley
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Talkative cookware

I think kitchen appliances do talk to each other, even before the “internet of things” arrives (letter, 14 October). The pot has been calling the kettle black for years.

Tony Taylor
Church Minshull, Cheshire


Sir, Those correspondents blaming Andrew Lansley are misguided (letters, Oct 14 and 15). Multiple serious errors have originated in the health department, leading to huge financial waste. The loss of well-trained professionals is a reflection of the way the department has demoralised the NHS. Radical change is needed but the present problems cannot be solved by one top-down restructuring, and increased funding is not the answer.
Thomas Bucknill
London W14

Sir, The two main reasons for the rise in the number of patients waiting for surgery (“This is going to hurt”, Oct 13) is the increase in avoidable emergency medical admissions to empty surgical beds reserved for long-awaited elective operations, and delayed discharges. Emergency admissions can be minimised by setting up a “hospital at home”, which has been successfully piloted and has the advantage of not uprooting elderly people from their own surroundings. Delayed discharges cost £24.5 million in August alone, and many such patients are unnecessarily made “prisoners” and forced into a care home against their will.
Dr M Shaukat Ali
Emeritus consultant physician, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich

Sir, The calls for more money for the NHS reflect both the unsustainable growth in funding by the last government and the unrealistic expectations it raised. Labour’s borrowing was made available in short order for political purposes, too short to train more GPs and surgeons: it sucked in staff who were unable to treat patients and discharge them with confidence. At the same time, erosion of the gatekeeper role damaged GPs’ ability to reassure patients and families that they don’t necessarily need high-tech medicine. The effect of this is being seen in overloaded emergency rooms and wards.
Adam P Fitzpatrick
Consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist, Macclesfield, Cheshire

Sir, That there are nearly 300 serious mistakes during surgery (“The good, the bad and the ugly”, Oct 14) should be a matter of national concern. But some “never events” go unaddressed or even unidentified because of a lack of regulation for professionals with responsibilities for patients’ wellbeing — for instance, those who assess the working of pacemakers. Such staff are not subject to fitness to practice tests and are outside the scope of the much anticipated “duty of candour”. They cannot be sanctioned in the way that doctors or nurses can be struck off. The government must address this matter urgently.
Amanda Casey
Chairwoman, Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists

Sir, Professor Mike Richards encourages the NHS to achieve a quality that matches “Sainsbury’s, Tesco or M&S” (“Grimy hospital wards as bad as Mid Staffs, warns watchdog”, Oct 14). Competition between these organisations is surely a major factor in quality improvement. The Health and Social Care Bill encouraged a tendering process and this is one means whereby competition can be developed in the NHS. I do not consider that a bad thing. Tendering is not unfair, usually heavily influenced by healthcare professionals, and is a gateway to innovative service delivery that is otherwise difficult to attain in a monolithic health service.
Dr Chris Loughran
Macclesfield, Cheshire

Sir, It is a canard that the health department “can’t afford a pay rise in addition to increments”. Increments cost nothing: as some staff gain a point, others leave to be replaced by someone five points below them. “Incremental drift” ensures the wage bill is the same.
Robert Keys
Danbury, Essex

Sir, In reply to John Nairn (letter, Oct 15), when I was working in the NHS my “vested interests” were my patients and my medical, nursing and ancillary colleagues.
Dr Mike Lewis
Axbridge, Somerset

Sir, The NHS salary structure means that many doctors reach the HMRC pension cap in their mid 50s. There will be no public sympathy for this plight, but it is resulting in unprecedented early retirement. Losing our medical seniors a decade early is unfortunate for the public.
Simon Jackson
Consultant gynaecologist, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford

Sir, I asked one of my GPs if I could have a named doctor. I was told not until I was 75 years old. A patient’s medical history ought to play a part, not age alone.
Peter MG Hime

Sir, Dr Stuart Sanders (letter, Oct 14) proposes that the running of the NHS should be placed in the hands of a board of trustees. Can I suggest that the same should be done with education? Both are far too important to be left to the mercies of the short-term expediency that appears to drive our politicians.
Michael Hasler
Totnes, Devon

Sir, It is short-sighted to deny nurses and midwives a significant pay rise. Recruitment is down, negligence claims are rising, and the NHS is increasingly reliant on expensive agency staff, some of whom will be unfamiliar with the procedures on their wards, possibly resulting in more litigation. Surely it would be more cost-effective to give nurses and midwives more money,
Dr Elaine Yeo
Enfield, Middx

Sir, Media coverage of the midwives’ strike appalled me. We saw moving footage of women giving birth and ecstatic nurses saying that the joy of seeing a new baby is reward enough — but joy will not pay their bills or fund their mortgages.
Susan Higgins
Surbiton, Surrey

Sir, Why not have a government-run NHS lottery? We would all buy tickets. Our local hospitals could be saved. Everyone would be a winner.
Ann Wilson
Eastbourne, E Sussex

Sir, Apropos the remake of Dad’s Army, might I suggest to the new members of the platoon that they bear in mind the words of Sgt Wilson: “Do you think that’s wise, sir?”
His Honour Judge Denyer, QC
Bristol Civil Justice Centre

Sir, When my teacher Elisabeth Lutyens asked Constant Lambert to explain a zeugma (letters, Oct 13 and 14), he replied swiftly that one could draw a cork, nude or conclusion.
Brian Elias
London NW11

Sir, If a management consultant uses a client’s watch to tell them the
time (letter, Oct 15), be assured the client is someone with a very expensive watch who doesn’t know the time of day.
Leon Pollock
Fellow of the Institute of Consulting,
Sutton Coldfield, W Midlands

Sir, With the increasing repetition of the name of the Ukip leader, I am hopeful broadcasters will encourage us to use the word “garage” with its proper pronunciation.
Keith Turner
Horringer, Suffolk

Sir, What appears to be missing from debate over the Human Rights Act is mention of its beneficial effect on public administration. Every bill presented to parliament must contain a ministerial certificate that it will comply with the 1998 act, and every act or decision of a civil servant will have ensured that theact is observed. Coincidentally, in his book Servant of the Crown, David Faulkner states that the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights have been “a healthy discipline in the formation of policy and for drafting of legislation”, but adds that politically, “the act has come to be seen as an obstacle to be overcome, not a standard to live up to”.
Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, QC
London N1


Get a load of this: horse manure delivered to your door Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:55AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – For our eldest son’s birthday, we bought him, at his suggestion, a ton of manure, which was delivered directly to his allotment.

We didn’t even have to wrap it, and we paid for it online.

Rev John Fairweather-Tall
Plymouth, Devon

Lost marbles

SIR – Having involved herself in the Elgin Marbles controversy Mrs Clooney (née Alamuddin) might like to campaign for the return of Henry VIII’s last suit of armour, which currently resides in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Eddie Hazel
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Unsolicited charity

SIR – I am increasingly concerned about the amount of marketing material I receive from charities, often including “bribes” such as pens and greetings cards. The other day I was sent a pedicure kit.

I do regularly support several charities but there is a limit to what can be afforded. Surely this nuisance is counter-productive for the very people it is trying to help?

John Vandenberghe
Hacheston, Suffolk

SIR – I have received an envelope from the British Red Cross containing a pen, a notebook, two cards and a bookmark. I am in need of none of them, and would think the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Alex Perry
Thames Ditton, Surrey

No-go for sloe

SIR – This year, unlike 2013, we picked a good crop of plums, apples and pears, but our local hedgerows are virtually bare of sloes. We are now in search of an alternative seasonal tipple.

John H Stephen
Bisley, Gloucestershire

Union: freedom of movement is a fundamental right guaranteed to all EU citizens Photo: Reuters

6:57AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – Boris Johnson is mistaken when he says that David Cameron can regain control of Britain’s borders by reform of the European Union.

The free movement of persons is intrinsic to the existence of the EU. It was a core part of the original Treaty of Rome in 1957 and from the early days of the European Economic Community nationals of member states could travel freely from one member state to another. This is now a fundamental right guaranteed to all EU citizens by The Schengen Agreement, which led to the creation of Europe’s borderless Schengen Area in 1995.

EU Commissioners and other EU leaders have constantly reiterated that reimposition of border controls between EU countries can never be permitted.

Dr Max Gammon
London SE16

SIR – The population of Southampton is around 240,000, which is roughly the figure of net migration to Britain last year. What effect does this annual influx have on real wage levels, demand for housing, traffic levels, and demand for GPs, hospital services and schools? The answer is, I believe, self evident.

Most economists and the Bank of England say they would like to see real wage levels rise, but the simple laws of supply and demand will prevent this happening. The consequences of this are far-reaching as Government tax take will not increase in line with the demand for public services and payment of pensions. We are starting to see this already.

Many who recognise these issues can see no alternative but to give Ukip their vote.

Barrie Middleton
Matlock, Derbyshire

Rule Britannia: the Bacup Coconutters perform pagan dances to welcome in the spring Photo: Getty Images

6:58AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – It is ludicrous to suggest that the Morris dancers with whom David Cameron was photographed were racist because they put blacking on their faces. It is a disguise, not make-up to imitate black people, and no more racist than SAS soldiers blacking their faces before a night operation.

The Foxs Morris troupe is similar in this respect to the Bacup Coconut dancers from Lancashire, who suggest that once upon a time, blackened faces gave them the advantage of disguise as they sang and danced during unlicensed begging.

There is much unexplained in the ancient world of Morris dancing. Some dancers disguise themselves as green men and devils. Don’t tell us that the Greens and Satanists will complain that they are offended by this traditional mummery.

Catherine Jackson

SIR – Social historians agree that blackface in every form is of racist origin, and that Morris dancing is a mockery of African tribal dance.

Nadia Alnasser

A Palestinian girl stands in a destroyed building following an Israeli military strike in Gaza  Photo: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

6:59AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – Parliament’s vote in favour of Palestinian statehood is welcome and, some may think, long overdue. Unfortunately for its Arab inhabitants, Hamas is not really a government as most people understand the term.

It is now decision time for the Israelis. Do they want to continue for ever protecting themselves from their neighbours with barbed wire, a wall, and anti-missile missiles?

Or will they finally admit that they have behaved disgracefully in taking by force land that, for generations, had been settled and owned by the Arabs?

The least they can now do is to apologise and try to make amends by helping the Arabs to reunite the separate parts of their country under a properly elected government.

Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

SIR – Shame on Parliament for supporting a Palestinian state run by Muslim terrorists – for that is exactly what Hamas are.

Our MPs should be supporting Israel.

Sir Gavin Gilbey
Dornoch, Sutherland

Shrunken Parliament

SIR – When Tam Dalyell posed the famous West Lothian question, he was – like everyone else since – looking at the constitutional problem through the wrong end of the telescope.

When the British Parliament decides to devolve powers to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Greater London Authority, its own status is automatically affected. For example, the Cabinet ministers for health, education, and culture, media and sport, to name but three, are not UK ministers – they are ministers for England. Theresa May is the UK-wide minister for immigration, but not for police, which has been devolved.

The UK Parliament and its MPs are left to deal with the 15 “reserved powers”, including defence, foreign policy, financial and economic matters, and, of course, the constitution. The last one, alone, should keep them busy.

David Donald
St Vincent-Jalmoutiers, Dordogne, France

SIR – On what basis does Gordon Brown hold that English votes for English laws would prejudice the fragile Union but that the creation of the Scottish Parliament hasn’t already done so?

Perhaps he would prefer a clear-cut English parliament, on a par with the Scottish one.

I know I would.

Ken Stevens
Sonning Common, Oxfordshire

Savings: the NHS needs to reduce its costs Photo: Alamy

7:00AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – If it is impossible to put more funding from taxation into the NHS, the only alternative – however unpalatable – is to reduce cost. The complexity of tendering, employment law and the compulsory monitoring of performance means that any reduction of administrators is also constrained. The only remaining avenue, and it needs to be examined, is for cost savings elsewhere.

The NHS has to be more selective about the duties it undertakes. Possible areas include reducing some elective procedures, making small deterrent charges for access to GPs and A&E, requiring proof of entitlement to treatment through National Insurance contributions, and insisting on the same guarantee of payment by foreign patients as is required of Britons when abroad.

Tony Jones
London SW7

SIR – Any objective analysis of the likely growth of the British economy and of the costs of health care demonstrates clearly that the current situation is not sustainable.

All political parties must have access to this data, and yet they choose to ignore it as they seek to boost their election prospects by pledging increasing amounts of public money to the NHS. This is not in the long-term interests of the country.

The NHS should provide world-leading treatment for life-threatening illnesses, not free care for those who choose to get so drunk they have to attend A&E.

I also hope that, when deciding which model to adopt for the NHS, those taking the decision look not just at the efficiency of the health care system but at the model that provides the best outcomes (in terms of survival rates) for patients.

Graham Taylor
Hastoe, Hertfordshire

SIR – Paul Keeling makes the common mistake of comparing Britain’s expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP relative to many other Western nations.

I believe that the cost-effectiveness of the expenditure is a more relevant guideline. In this, we rank 23 out of 29 in a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

David Miller
Maidenhead, Berkshire

SIR – Why did NHS Scotland not strike? Because they got the recommended 1 per cent pay rise.

It is about time people in the rest of the United Kingdom were treated fairly.

Anne Parmley
Blackpool, Lancashire

SIR – Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, says that if NHS staff get a pay rise, then the number of staff must be reduced.

This should apply to Members of Parliament.

David G Walters
Corbridge, Northumberland

Donations: these days tactics go beyond asking for a little loose change Photo: ALAMY

10:55AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – I complained to the Red Cross about its sending of unsolicited gifts. A senior fundraiser told me that this practice generates higher receipts but assured me I would receive no more.

The gifts continue to arrive and I no longer support this charity or others who follow suit. If other readers did the same and notified the charities accordingly it might put an end to this unpleasant practice.

Diana Crook
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – While I contribute to charities on a regular basis, I must express my annoyance at the intimidating tactics currently being employed by some collectors who position themselves in supermarket exit halls rattling collection boxes at eye level, partly blocking one’s path and, most annoyingly, making comments like “come on you can afford it”.

It is an intimidating and, I suspect, counter-productive practice. I note the name of the offending charity and promptly vote with my feet.

Ian Jones
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – There seems to be general positivity about the budget, and in comparison to the eight previous versions, this one is an improvement.

We should remember, however, that for someone being whipped while bound in shackles, if the whipping stops, it is an improvement but they remain shackled.

The USC tax persists, our pension savings continue to be raided and the impact of the property tax and water charges remain as extra indirect taxation for the majority of workers.

Regardless of the spin, it seems we shall remain shackled for the foreseeable future. – Is mise,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – In the interests of fairness and parity, will those of us who have our own supply of water and have our own wastewater facilities get tax relief on the cost of providing same? – Yours etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – Now that the provision of water is no longer being paid for from general taxation (following the appropriate tax reductions in Budget 2015), can the opponents of water charges own up to the fact that their main motivation is just to squander as much as they want, just as they used to do with waste collection in the past? – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Tuesday’s budget has been described as “the end of austerity”.

What does this signal for the Anti-Austerity Alliance? Is it now irrelevant? Maybe it should rebrand to AAA to focus on upgrading Ireland’s position with the credit rating agencies. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – As the Ministers have reduced the number of people obliged to pay the Universal Social Charge, shouldn’t it now be simply called the “Social Charge”? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Last year the Minister introduced a single-person child carer credit to replace the single-parent tax credit.

This legislation discriminated against 50 per cent of separated parents, as only one parent – the so-called primary carer – was allowed to claim the new credit. Usually the primary carer is the mother.

Despite being repeatedly asked and lobbied about this, in the main from separated fathers, the Minister made no changes to this discriminatory legislation in the budget. Separated fathers should take note, discrimination in the tax system is to be maintained. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I’m married to a smoker and I’ve learned over time that no one is going to tell him when he will quit. Yet the Government seems to think that by increasing the price of cigarettes very year in the budget will stop him smoking (an extra 40 cent this year, bringing the price of 20 cigarettes to €10). It’s not about the money. It’s about the addiction.

This is just a cheap and lazy money-making scheme for the exchequer and it should stop. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – It is very interesting that the new 11 per cent rate of USC for income over €100,000 only applies to the self-employed.

Apart from the fact that the new rate doesn’t apply to civil servants, TDs or Ministers, what is the justification for only targeting the self-employed and not fat cat employees?

I know turkeys don’t vote for Christmas but did the Ministers and their mandarins have to be so obvious? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – John McAvoy, former general manager of the CAO, strikes an inflammatory note in his condemnation of TCD’s foray into “alternative” entry assessment criteria (“Students are the guinea pigs in Trinity’s experiment”, Education Opinion, October 14th). But he’s right.

The Leaving Cert points race certainly has a lot of problems, but it is better than alternatives involving subjective judgment. Human judgment in entry selection has been shown to have very little ability to select students who will perform better (even when the judges are very confident in their own judgement).

Instead, it has been shown to increase social selectivity – you inevitably identify more with someone who resembles you. I don’t think for a moment it is TCD’s intention, but this scheme will increase the social exclusivity of their student body, benefiting the academically underperforming child of well-networked, affluent parents much more than the bright kid who needs a break.

There is one good element in TCD’s criteria, which is to rate students relative to their school. A student from an elite fee-charging school (or grind college) who gets 500 points is probably quite average, and you will see it in his or her university performance, but a student from a struggling school who gets 500 points is probably exceptional. A fair implementation would, of course, be very difficult. – Yours, etc,


Department of Sociology,

University of Limerick.

Sir, – John McAvoy’s recent piece on Trinity College Dublin’s new admissions experiment displayed an appalling refusal to consider alternatives to a challenging problem. Third-level education and admissions ought to acknowledge that students are not only being academically trained, but are also being prepared to enter into industry, government, or other careers. Basing admission solely on the Leaving Certificate ignores alternative skills and experiences that may be valuable for those end goals.

As an alumnus of both Trinity College Dublin and American universities, I find it striking that Mr McAvoy felt the need to belittle elements of Trinity’s experiment without considering their effective use, for decades, in other countries. Those systems may not be perfect, but neither is the Irish model.

Changing the system may impact some students, but it may also allow for engaged students to enter third-level education – students who previously may have been left on the outside looking in due to the Leaving Cert. Broadening the basis of admission may also encourage students to be engaged in elements of their community outside of academics.

I am often critical of Trinity College Dublin’s unwillingness to experiment and change. On this subject, however, I can only hope that their newfound institutional flexibility is replicated elsewhere in Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Lake Shore Drive,



Sir, – John McAvoy describes Trinity College’s experiment with alternative entry requirements as “outrageous”. As director of a third-level course, I keep an eye on the extent to which Leaving Cert results are predictive of first-year grades at university. While admittedly based on a small sample, my experience has shown that total Leaving Cert points is a far better predictor of third-level performance than any single Leaving Cert result taken in isolation. For example, total points are a better predictor of university maths grades than is a student’s actual Leaving Cert maths grade. This phenomenon may be related to the central limit theorem, which implies that a well-diversified outcome, such as performance at third level, is best predicted by a well-diversified set of tests. Relying strongly on any single component, such as the HPAT, or an essay, reduces predictive accuracy because it lowers the overall diversification of the measure. John McAvoy is right. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – Dr Anthony White suggests that our energy and climate change problems would be solved simply by converting Moneypoint power station to biomass (“Why wind is not the answer to Ireland’s energy question”, Opinion & Analysis, October 14th). This option has been examined many times in the past and, as most people would probably expect, the reality is not that simple.

Converting the plant would be complex and very costly, and would create a new dependence on imported fuel of volatile price and questionable environmental benefit. The Drax power plant in the UK cited by Dr White actually requires price supports almost double those paid in Ireland for wind energy, and its carbon saving benefit has recently been questioned by the UK’s chief scientific adviser on energy.

Why would we create a new dependence on other people’s resources to meet our energy needs? Ireland has excellent indigenous clean energy resources of many kinds, and we should exploit them all appropriately. For biomass, that means using local fuel supply to meet local heat needs, thereby keeping money in rural communities and creating jobs.

Wind energy is also benefitting Ireland. Our research in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland shows that in one year alone, 2012, wind energy reduced our carbon emissions by 1.5 million tonnes and our fossil fuel imports by €175 million. The detailed analysis showing this is available on our website.

Ireland needs to wean its energy system off exposure to €6.5 billion of imported fossil fuels, with associated emissions, at prices outside our control and with risks of disruption to supply. Wind and biomass both have their parts to play in this, but we should make our decisions based on facts and evidence, not wishful thinking. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Sustainable Energy

Authority of Ireland,

Wilton Park House,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Today is World Food Day, with events taking place across the globe to focus attention on the important role played by the family farm in ending hunger and poverty.

This week’s budget brought a halt to cuts in Ireland’s overseas development assistance spending for the first time in six years. While we are still some way short of our international pledge to invest 0.7 per cent of GDP in overseas aid, the Government’s decision to end successive cuts has to be regarded as a step in the right direction.

A significant part of our overseas development assistance budget is invested in efforts to end hunger in Africa and elsewhere across the world.

Helping smallholder farming families to produce more and earn more from their small farms is vital to this effort. Upwards of 70 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa rely directly on small farms for their livelihoods.

Only by committing resources to this area will we achieve the objectives of World Food Day, since it was first launched by the United Nations in 1981.

Growing more food is only a part of the equation, however, as the urgent need to improve nutrition for families is critical too if we are to end world hunger and poverty in our lifetime.

Although rarely listed as the direct cause, malnutrition is estimated to contribute to more than a third of all child deaths in Africa.

Poor nutrition in early years can also have a lifelong effect on health, increasing vulnerability to common ailments and reducing cognitive and learning abilities.

Within agriculture and food production we must address both the challenge of food production and of improving nutrition, as we focus on supporting the poor to feed their populations in the years ahead. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Gorta-Self Help Africa,

Kingsbridge House,

Parkgate Street,

Sir, – Attempts are often made by those opposed to any loosening of the severe restrictiveness of our abortion law under any circumstance to blur the lines between fatal and non-fatal foetal diagnoses. Barry Walsh (October 15th) lapses into this error.

Anencephaly is untreatable and always fatal. Appealing to the statistically remote chance of an anencephalic surviving for up to one or two years rather than days, hours or not at all, and invoking such anomalous cases to justify denying women the option of termination of an often longed-for pregnancy, while perhaps well-intentioned by some, is ultimately cruel to those women who cannot bear to bring a fatally malformed pregnancy to term.

I do agree with Mr Walsh that framing a constitutional amendment or legislation around this issue would be problematic.

Certainly, adding another constitutional clause to the mess of Article 40.3.3 would merely be shovelling more detritus onto this legislative midden. Consider the onerous and demeaning barriers placed before pregnant women and girls at risk of suicide in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. Are devastated women with fatal foetal diagnoses to be subjected to a panel (or two) of up to seven doctors?

The question asked by your poll, of course, is not misleading. Independent, unbiased opinion polling means asking the questions and letting the respondents think for themselves.

It is quite amazing to see anti-abortion campaigners shooting the messengers of all the opinion polls showing their position to be a minority one. The bogeyman of a perceived liberal media bias (“Pro Life Campaign criticises ‘extremely biased’ media”, October 12th) is invariably invoked by some – the poll is “biased” because the questions are not prefaced by their own Newspeak definitions of “abortion”, “fatal foetal abnormality”, etc. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 20.

A chara, – RTÉ longwave transmission (252kHz) is to cease from the end of October 2014. Large numbers of the Irish community in the UK will be affected by the switching off of this transmission waveband. This station plays a vital part in keeping the diaspora in touch with Irish news, music, culture and sport. The advertised alternatives are flawed. RTÉ FM and DAB broadcasts cannot be received in the UK. Internet transmissions are not nearly as practical as a radio that can be instantly switched on and is already tuned to RTÉ. Internet transmission cannot be listened to in a car. I understand RTÉ must move with the times and needs to invest in digital platforms; however there remain major restrictions with the technology. Currently the most effective way to reach the UK audience is via longwave – a proven service that has stood the test of time. – Is mise,


St Michael’s Irish Centre,

Ormskirk, Lancashire.

Sir, – Your online headline “Stunning and comprehensive 1-1 victory for Ireland in Germany” is a masterpiece.

Ireland has often snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but it takes genius to snatch victory from a draw. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – I was very pleased to note that on the day that Michael Noonan conceded a “double Irish” to Germany, John O’Shea reminded them that a single Irish can cause them even more bother! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – A new Ming dynasty in Roscommon? As long as the porcelain factories are not located in Knockcroghery, I suppose. – Is mise,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Will the new arrivals in the Dáil, Messrs Murphy and Fitzmaurice, be referred to affectionately by their colleagues in the lower house as the “water babies”? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Looking at his new photograph, I thought you had fired Michael Harding and hired someone in his place (“Our Lady of the Telephone and the Palestinian poet”, October 14th). Michael, the new hairdo has changed you completely, but I am still a fan and so pleased and relieved it is still you. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 4.

Irish Independent:

The late Con Houlihan often referred to the question posed by Napoleon in assessing the future potential of his generals. “Is he lucky?” asked Napoleon.

If Con was alive today it is likely that the element of luck and Napoleon would have featured in his match analysis of Tuesday’s dramatic conclusion in Gelsenkirchen.

Martin O’Neill’s team has now rescued four points from their visits to Georgia and Germany, when the sum total of one point in Tiblisi appeared to be the likely outcome as the clock ticked over the 90th minute in both games.

This should give us a real hope that the winds of fortune are behind us, as luck appeared to have deserted our national team under the four managers (McCarthy, Kerr, Staunton and Trapattoni) who succeeded Jack Charlton.

Snatching a late draw in Gelsenkirchen recalls our first competitive game away from home under Jack Charlton in Brussels on September 10, 1986. We were trailing 2-1 in the final minute against Belgium, when Frank Stapleton was brought down by the goalkeeper in the penalty area. Up stepped Liam Brady – now an RTE analyst – to score the penalty and secure a 2-2. The team went on to qualify for Euro 88 and the Charlton era was up and running.

Frank Burke, Terenure, Dublin 6

Panel beaters should be positive

Last night, after watching Ireland’s amazing draw against Germany (1-1), I decided to listen to RTE 2 soccer experts Messers Giles, Dunphy and Brady to hear what I thought might be more positivity, especially after what Michael Noonan delivered in the Budget. Alas, I was so wrong. The negativity was so unbelievable I almost thought we had lost the game. I really feel that the panel were hoping for Ireland to get a drubbing so that they could continue the rant against manager after manager of the Irish soccer team.

Let’s face it, to draw against the current world champions Germany was an immense result for the nation’s soccer team. We all know that a vast amount of the current squad are playing Championship football in England. Our achievement in gaining a point – which, in my eyes, will be crucial at the end of the campaign – should be congratulated.

Tomas O Cochlain, Address with editor

No denying democratic tide

In his missive yesterday (Letters, October 14) Anthony Leavy downplays the significance of protests that are rising across the country these last few months. He dismisses the protesters as “just another group with vested interests” and laments actions taken a decade ago.

We have paid the price for some poor governance in the past, but that does not absolve others for their part in our financial struggle, namely those in the ECB and EU that threatened to ‘bankrupt Ireland’ if we did not rescue the banks (to the detriment of the citizens).

The rising tide of protest across the country is a merely a recognition of the fact that – despite the so-called ‘good news’ regarding deficit targets – the reality is that the number of homeless is at record levels, the number of suicides is up and hospital waiting lists have skyrocketed.

Those that have the courage to stand up and protest peacefully are an example to the whole country. It is the only way ordinary citizens will ever have their voice heard. The “vested interests” that Mr Leavy speaks of tend to whisper quietly in the corridors of power – they dare not show themselves on our streets. There is a democratic tide sweeping across the country. People have learned not to take our politicians at their word anymore.

Simon O’Connor, Crumlin, Dublin

More questions than answers

An epiphany. Today – not for the first time – I spent 15 minutes trying to get an answer to a simple question from a service provider.

I was directed round the houses by a series of automated messages until I eventually got to speak to a person. The person was lovely, but didn’t have a clue.

What I wondered was this – is the reason why these providers make such strenuous efforts to avoid letting us speak to a person is that they know that their people may not know what they are talking about?

Tom Farrell, Swords, Co Dublin

Budget 2015

Following the Budget, would Mr Spock say “it’s austerity Jim, but not as we know it?

John Williams, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

So you thought this was a giveaway Budget in order to win the next general election? Just wait till you see next years.

Mike Burke, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare

Change needed at Blackrock

We are writing in response to your article of October 10 (“Blackrock Appeal Over Pupils Policy”), in which you quote Shane Murphy, President of Blackrock College’s Past Pupils Union, as characterising the State’s intention to change the college’s admissions policy as “unjust”.

We have benefited from our education and experience in Blackrock College, its traditions and values, its ability to adapt to fresh challenges. The school taught us to have open enquiring minds.

We believe hereditary privilege should not be a deciding factor in access to such education. The proposed policy would increase the openness of our alma mater, strengthening its social inclusiveness, allowing it to produce students better able to meet a changing world in an even more constructive and critical manner. That’s a worthwhile aim.

Since Blackrock College receives substantial funds from the Exchequer, this move by the government seems quite just and – if anything – overdue.

Mr Murphy’s opinions do not represent those of all former pupils of our school.

Brendan Dempsey, Tom Duke, Robert Graham, Mark Leahy, Brian McGeeny, Addresses with editor

Time to remember our women

It is a sad fact that if Irish school students were asked to explain what Cumann na mBan meant, many would stare at each other in bewilderment.

It’s a poignant reality, but it’s the world we live in. Soap operas and psychedelic songs take precedence over how we as a country reached the stage of where we’re at today. Whose fault is it that large chunks of our history are deemed no longer important enough to put much emphasis on it in the class room?

There are many well-known members of Cumann na mBan like Maud Gonne MacBride and Countess Markievicz who did not shy away from armed action.

Markievicz is known to have shot an RIC man at St Stephen’s Green during the Easter Rising and, along with other Cumann na mBan members, subjected British forces to sniper fire.

This front-line action resulted in the deaths of many women volunteers, which has been overshadowed by the deaths of Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and other leaders who were executed as retribution for the rising.

An exhibition entitled ‘Women in Struggle’ will take place in Ostan Loch Altan, Gort an Choirce on November 1, starting at 4 pm. Well-known historian Helen Meehan (who is president of the Donegal Historical Society) from Mountcharles, and Mary Nelis, a former Derry City Councillor and civil rights campaigner and writer, will be among the various speakers in attendance.

James Woods, Gort an Choirce, Co Dun na nGall

Irish Independent


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